Rugby

Cooper defends Auckland performance

2015-08-16 10:10
Quade Cooper (AFP)

Auckland - Boos, jeers, a yellow card and an early cut, it proved another frustrating performance at Eden Park for talented Australia flyhalf Quade Cooper.

The Reds pivot was a polarising selection by head coach Michael Cheika ahead of Bernard Foley but the 27-year-old began strongly on Saturday as the Wallabies briefly threatened a first win at the Auckland venue since 1986.

Flat, inviting passes, solid goal-kicking and good running in the opening stages where the All Blacks kicked away plenty of ball demonstrated the positives that Cooper brings to the team.

"The start of the game, that initial period, was when we were looking our best in attack," Cheika said.

"I thought he put us in good position early on and made some good plays and led us around the park well, until he had to leave the field."

That 47th minute departure coincided with the All Blacks coming out of their early error-strewn malaise and restricting him of possession.

Cooper slipped at the start of the second half to draw a large roar from the Auckland crowd, who dubbed him public enemy number one during the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.

And just minutes later his night was over. A desperate high tackle on All Black scrumhalf Aaron Smith earning a yellow card and resulting in a penalty try for the hosts with the offence occurring just short of the Wallabies line.

More cheers followed his exit to the sin bin, customary for the player long derided in New Zealand, but Cooper said the noise went over his head.

"It's professional sport. The crowd hasn't got anything to do with it," he said.

"My mindset had blocked that out. I'm accustomed to training to that now. I expect that."

After Cooper's 10 minutes were up, so was the game with the All Blacks adding two more tries while the visitors were down a man. Cheika opted not to reinstate Cooper, with Kurtley Beale replacing him.

It added another black mark to the Kiwi-born player's Eden Park performances.

He looked frazzled at the venue in the World Cup semi-final demolition by the All Blacks in 2011, enduring a poor game to the delight of the sell-out crowd who badgered his every move.

Days later, he suffered a serious knee injury in the bronze medal playoff against Wales at the same ground.

Cooper, though, felt Saturday's display did not deserve criticism.

"I feel that I did well," he said.

"I did the job I needed to do in terms of controlling the team around while I was out there.

"I was disappointed with not being able to stay out there for the whole game but that's the way it's gone."

Read more on:    wallabies  |  quade cooper  |  rugby
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