Waratahs inspired by poet in motion in Super Rugby final



Adam Ashley-Cooper dives to score a try for the Waratahs during the Super Rugby Grand Final against the Crusaders at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night. Picture: MARK NOLAN/GETTY IMAGES

Adam Ashley-Cooper dives to score a try for the Waratahs during the Super Rugby Grand Final against the Crusaders at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night. Picture: MARK NOLAN/GETTY IMAGES

RUGBY UNION

An ecstatic Adam Ashley-Cooper dubbed it "100 per cent the greatest moment in my rugby career" and coach Michael Cheika said there could not have been a more fitting man of the match than the NSW Waratahs ironman.

Three days after staying up until 4am to pen an inspiring poem about his 32 teammates, Ashley-Cooper's vintage two-try display helped lift the Waratahs to an elusive maiden Super Rugby title.

The Tahs' thrilling 33-32 victory over the colossal Crusaders at ANZ Stadium also earned Ashley-Cooper his long-awaited first grand final triumph of any type after more than 20 years of trying.

"I played a lot of grand finals as a junior and never got the chockies on any," the 30-year-old said.

"It kind of all makes sense now. All the years of disappointment was all worthwhile just for this one moment and this is locked away and something that no-one can take away from me or the group."

The only player to play all possible 560 minutes at the 2011 Rugby World Cup, Ashley-Cooper didn't miss a game of the Waratahs' 18-match campaign in 2014 either.

Cheika, though, said it's not just the on-field contributions that make the indestructible centre and vice-captain a hero at the Waratahs.

"There's one word of describing that guy on and off the field and that's class," Cheika said.

"Every week he delivers and I'm not using that as a big sweeping statement.

"He delivers every week consistently, the same quality, sometimes a little bit better than his normal - but his normal is very, very good.

Ashley-Cooper took 12 painstaking hours and several rewrites to produce his motivational masterpiece.

He said the idea came from stand-in captain Michael Hooper's decision to ask a senior statesman of the team to deliver a weekly speech.

"It was my turn and I just felt like I needed to add something different," Ashley-Cooper said.

In a team of heroes across the park, No 8 Wycliff Palu was a mighty metre eater throughout the gripping final despite spending time in the head bin, Jacques Potgieter was also immense and Hooper completed the campaign as the only Waratah to play out the 80 minutes in all 18 matches.

Stephen Hoiles provided the fairytale after being told he'd never play again, winger Rob Horne was superb, fullback Israel Folau typically threatening, centre Kurtley Beale offered the finesse and five-eighth Bernard Foley proved the match winner.

But Cheika couldn't praise halfback Nick Phipps enough for his courage and commitment. His late try-saving cover tackle on Crusaders winger Nemani Nadolo exemplified his outstanding season.

"He ran himself empty," Cheika said. - AAP

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