Quade Cooper made an emphatic statement to Wallabies selectors ahead of the Lions tour as he steered the Queensland Reds to an upset 31-23 Super 15 rugby union win over the Waikato Chiefs in Hamilton yesterday.
A day after Cooper was surprisingly omitted from Robbie Deans' 30-man preliminary squad, the playmaker was a central figure in the Reds' bonus-point win over the defending champions and New Zealand conference leaders.
Cooper's absence from the squad for June's British & Irish Lions tour so incensed former Wallaby fullback Greg Martin that he accused New Zealand-born coach Deans of trying to sabotage Australian rugby.
While Cooper denied any rift with Deans, he showed his credentials with a game-breaking try just after half-time when the Reds held a slender 14-13 lead and added to his points tally by converting all four tries and a penalty.
In partnership with scrum-half Will Genia, Cooper dictated the flow of the match as the Reds forwards dominated the breakdown and ensured a steady supply of possession.
"He's been improving from week to week and Willy and him have got a really good combination together and they direct us around the park really well," skipper James Horwill said.
"So it was a big effort by both of them, and the boys up front really did a really good job to lay the platform for them."
The Blues continued their mid-season recovery with a bonus-point 28-6 win over Wellington Hurricanes in a frantic New Zealand derby in Auckland.
The Blues scored four tries, all converted by Chris Noakes, with Frank Halai and Charles Piutau touching down in the first half while James Parsons and Tom McCartney scored in the second.
Meanwhile, fly-half Demetri Catrakilis landed a drop goal after the full-time siren to claim South Africa's Southern Kings their first Super 15 win in Australia against the Melbourne Rebels.
The Kings, in their debut season in Super Rugby, downed the Rebels 30-27 after last week coming from behind to earn a 28-28 draw with competition leaders ACT Brumbies in Canberra.
The Rebels looked to have done enough to get the winning points after fighting back from 14-0 down to lead 27-17 with 27 minutes left. But the Port Elizabeth-based Kings refused to give in and drew level following a converted try from Wimpie van der Walt with five minutes left.
It was left to Catrakilis to claim victory for the Kings with his drop goal after the South Africans had the ball deep in Rebels' territory after the siren.