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Reece Hodge congratulates match winner Quade Cooper after the Wallabies’ last-ditch 28-26 win over the Springboks on the Gold Coast.
Quade Cooper kicked a last-second penalty to give the Wallabies a 28-26 win over world champions South Africa in a Hollywood script return in his first test match for four years.
After 1541 days in the international wilderness, the veteran pivot slotted eight kicks from eight attempts – including a vital long-range effort after the final hooter for the Wallabies’ first win of the Rugby Championships season on the Gold Coast on Sunday night.
Cooper, 33, kicked 14 first half points to put the Wallabies ahead 19-11 at the interval and generally added some composure missing in the Wallabies backline during their three defeats to the All Blacks, striking up a strong combination with inside centre Samu Kerevi.
Cooper and Springboks opposite Handre Pollard traded two penalties apiece before Wallabies wing Andrew Kellaway crossed for his fourth try of the season while Springboks captain Siya Kolisi was in the sinbin for a dangerous tip tackle on Tom Banks.
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South Africa struck back with a rolling maul try to hooker Bongi Mbonambi after the Wallabies were reduced to 14 men when lock Matt Phillip was yellow carded for killing an earlier maul. Pollard failed to convert, missing an opportunity to tie the score at 13-13.
Cooper, by contrast, maintained his perfect record off the tee by slotting a handy penalty for a 16-11 lead and then adding another on the stroke of halftime after the Wallabies pack claimed a morale-boosting scrum penalty in front of the sticks.
The Wallabies were well worth their 19-11 halftime lead, and the Springboks missed a chance to narrow the deficit early in the second half when Pollard’s penalty attempt struck the upright.
He made no mistake, however, in the 47th minute, to reduce the margin to 19-14.
The Wallabies blew a chance for a penalty soon after Pollard’s goal, with the match officials reversing their decision for a no-arms tackle on Eben Etzebeth by Australian flanker Lachie Swinton.
But Cooper was on target with his fifth penalty of the game after referee Luke Pearce dispatched Boks fullback Wille le Roux to the sinbin for a deliberate knock-on.
Pearce issued his fourth yellow card of the match to Wallabies hooker Folau Fainga’a for a dangerous tackle.
The Australian miscreant had barely reached the naughty chair before the Springboks rumbled over from the lineout penalty maul through substitute hooker Malcolm Marx.
Pollard’s conversion cut the deficit to one point.
Cooper kept his 100 per cent kicking record with a superb 45m angled penalty goal to make it 25-21.
Marx got his second try from a similar move in the 71st minute to give the Springboks a slender one-point lead.
The Wallabies put together 14 phases before captain Michael Hooper made a dab down the left flank, but the Springboks cover defence forced Reece Hodge into a handling error.
But halfbak Nic White earned a penalty after a scrum and Cooper kept his nerve, slotting his final goal for a dream test rugby return.
Wallabies 28 (Andrew Kellaway try; Quade Cooper 7 pen, con) South Africa 26 (Bongi Mbonambi, Malcolm Marx 2 tries; Handre Pollard 3 pen, con). HT: 19-11. Yellow cards: Wallabies 2 (Matt Phillip, Folau Fainga’a), South Africa 2: (Siya Kolisi, Wille le Roux).