The level of vitriol plastered at Wallaby flyhalf Quade Cooper by Kiwi crowds was still high a full two years after the 2011 World Cup. The booing antics had become a poor habit, while cheering errors by Cooper was commonplace throughout New Zealand stadia.

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The last game of the 2013 Bledisloe series was to be played under the roof in Dunedin at Forsyth Barr Stadium, and the Wallabies were looking to avoid a clean sweep after going down 47-29 in Sydney and 27-16 in Wellington.

In both prior losses to the All Blacks, Cooper had been only a flyhalf replacement but had since started four tests on the trot heading into the final Bledisloe clash. It would be an opportunity for Cooper to silence the naysayers and earn the respect of New Zealand crowds.

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The Wallabies immediately started on the front foot with an early break to Israel Folau after recovering the kickoff.

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Receiving a penalty from a scrum shortly after, Cooper lined up his first kick of the night while boos echoed around the enclosed arena. He drilled it straight down the middle to give the Wallabies a 3-0 lead.

“Couldn’t be straighter, this could be a good night for Cooper,” former All Black Justin Marshall forewarned on the commentary call.

A Wallabies attacking pattern from a lineout used a heavy set of forward runners around the corner before eventually settling deep inside the All Blacks’ 22. Cooper calmly dropped back into the pocket and confidently slotted a drop goal with advantage playing.

More boos rained down on Cooper’s second penalty attempt, which was again thumped high and through the uprights.

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Two try-saving tackles by Cooper on Kieran Read and Aaron Smith in the space of twenty seconds just a metre shy of the tryline kept the Wallabies in the match midway in the first half.

An explosion of All Blacks tries stretched the lead to 30-12 but a late Wallabies surge paid dividends when Quade Cooper set up Adam Ashley-Cooper with a long floated pass. His sideline conversion closed the gap to 30-19.

The Wallabies kept fighting back but couldn’t reduce the deficit, admirably going down 41-33, with Cooper a central figure in an Australian side that put up their largest score against the All Blacks since 2008 when they won 34-19 in Sydney.

Quade Cooper finished with a perfect night off the tee, kicking six from six and with the drop goal finished with a personal tally of 18 points and a try assist.

Prominent New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi led the praise online for Cooper, calling him a great player.

After the game, Cooper said the team was heading in the right direction after being away on tour with each other in South Africa and Argentina.

“As a team we’re heading in the right direction and the more good games put together, on a personal note, the better the performance as a team,” he added.

“You’re put in a position where you’re living together basically. Six weeks away as a team you get to know each other on and off the field, you get to see peoples’ habits, their traits, things that you may not necessarily like about the players but you have to work hard and the things you like, you build on those.

The 2013 end-of-year tour following the final Bledisloe match may have been Quade Cooper’s finest stretch of games for the Wallabies, orchestrating wins over Six Nations champions Wales, Ireland, Italy, and Scotland while falling at Twickenham to England by 20-13.

 

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