RWC: Ashley-Cooper on an emotional high
Story and Photo: www.rugbyworldcup.com
AUCKLAND, 11 Oct. - Adam Ashley-Cooper spent Australia’s quarter-final against South Africa on Sunday doing two things: tackling like a man possessed and jumping up and down in childish excitement.
When captain James Horwill powered over the Springboks' try line after 11 minutes, it was difficult to ignore Ashley-Cooper's airborne celebrations.
Then, when the final whistle blew and the scoreboard read 11-9 to the Wallabies, there was the centre again doing his best imitation of a leaping salmon.
"I don't know if you saw me, but I was on halfway, jumping up and down, doing pirouettes, and jumping up and down like a fairy,” Ashley-Cooper admitted. “I was carrying on. That might explain the emotion I was going through.”
Ashley-Cooper’s emotions were two-fold. First, there was the amazement that Australia had somehow emerged victorious from an epic encounter in which 76 per cent of the contest was played in their half.
The Wallabies were forced to make 147 tackles as they grimly held their line against the South Africans' almost continuous wave of attack, with Ashley-Cooper putting his shoulder to work in the thick of a dogged defence.
“Knowing we had no possession, we played the majority of the game down in our own 22. They played all the football, they played great football, it was just sheer determination and guts that got us the result,” the 27-year-old said.
Second, there was the relief of knowing he could shake off some of the demons of Australia’s quarter-final loss to England at RWC 2007, a painful memory that he admitted dominated his thoughts in the lead-up to last Sunday's last-four encounter.
"The whole week I was reflecting on the result back in Marseille and just what it felt like post-game. I tried to share as much as I could with the blokes around me on the feeling they would encounter if we came up short, how unpleasant it is,” he said.
"To get the result and go on further than we did four years ago was just pure relief."
However, Ashley-Cooper, who signed with New South Wales Waratahs in March, is certain he will have a few more attacking opportunities in Australia’s semi-final against New Zealand on Sunday after spending most of the quarter-final dragging Springboks runners to ground.
"I think I only had one ball carry," he said. "I might have touched the ball defensively, in wrapping the ball up, but I'm not sure I had a ball carry. It probably doesn't look too good on the stats sheet.”
Getting off the ground is nothing new for Ashley-Cooper, though. With a distinctive try-scoring style developed during his childhood playing rugby league, he is known for achieving impressive heights as he dives over the line.
“I was taught from a young age that’s how you score tries, with the ball under your wing. It’s obviously got a little bit higher off the ground since I’ve gotten older, but at the end of the day I enjoy scoring tries and that won’t change,” he said.
Whether he finds himself on the scoresheet or not, Ashley-Cooper is no doubt hoping he has a few more reasons to jump for joy when South African referee Craig Joubert blows the final whistle at Eden Park on Sunday.