Quade Cooper received a painful first-hand view of how mistakes are punished in rugby sevens as Australia lost a second straight World Series final but he now wants to make instant amends.
Cooper gained a pass mark in his long-awaited international sevens debut when the Thunderbolts once again finished heartbroken runners-up in Las Vegas on Monday morning (AEDT), failing to finish off a 15-0 lead over Fiji in a windswept decider.
The 21-15 loss could have been far different if not for the jinking Wallabies playmaker, who came off the bench following his side’s third try, being stripped as went to score with three minutes left.
Instead of lunging over and extending a 15-14 lead, the loose ball was swung wide in-goal by the Fijians before the powerful Savenaca Rawaca ran 108m to score the match-winner.
“It’s a cruel game,” coach Andy Friend told AAP.
“It’s a game of inches there and you have to take those opportunities.
“A team like Fiji will capitalise on that.”
Overall, he was well pleased with Cooper’s performances in Las Vegas but admitted errors in the final showed he still had plenty of learning to do in the frenetic, high-energy sevens game.
“The level of fatigue (in sevens) is so much different – you have to learn that and cut through those moments as a player,” he said.
Cooper may get that chance in six days with the Australian Rugby Union negotiating with his French club, Toulon, for a release to play in the Vancouver Sevens.
The five-eighth, who is needed due to a season-ending injury to Tom Lucas, is keen to play and Friend is more than hopeful.
There was some customary Cooper trickery but the most impressive parts of his game was his defence at the back and understated smarts in attack – although a forward pass in the final minute of the final also cost his team.
“Congrats to our Fiji brothers for the victory at the @USASevensRugby. I had so much fun & learnt so much from both my teammates & opposition,” Cooper tweeted.
While he was the playmaker, it was the tough defence and scrapping by a team that plays above itself that earned their rewards, topped by a semifinal upset of South Africa.
Captain Ed Jenkins led heroically from the front and Allan Fa’alava’au was influential as Australia, looking like genuine Rio Olympic contenders, were set to end their four-year title drought.
Despite the abject disappointment, Friend was immensely proud of his troops’ efforts to make the final.
“We said after the game that it was our’s to lose and we managed to lose it,” said Friend.
“The boys defended very, very well (in the tournament) and to work that hard and then not get the result is what hurts most.