Wallabies great Adam Ashley-Cooper has announced his retirement amid the joyous celebrations of a Major League Rugby title in Los Angeles.
Ashley-Cooper and long-time Wallabies ally Matt Giteau both had starring roles in the Los Angeles Giltinis’ 31-17 triumph over Rugby ATL in the Championship final on Monday morning (Australian time).
At 37, centre Adam Ashley-Cooper had an impressive final game to his superb career in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
On top of his 121 Tests and titles with the NSW Waratahs and Japan’s Kobelco Steelers, he can now add a MLR championship in the USA.
“I’m very proud to be a part of what this club has achieved by beating obstacles and adversity all along the way. It’s been an epic campaign,” Ashley-Cooper said.
“My body was telling me halfway through the season that this was it but it got me through to a Championship final.
“To finish a career on my own terms, to go out a winner...there’s no better way.”
Winning the Championship final was also a superb endorsement of head coach Darren Coleman, who will fly home to Sydney in the days ahead to prepare for his next challenge as NSW Waratahs coach.
This is the first championship won by a new professional sports team born and created from the team spirit of meetings over Zoom calls. That was the crazy landscape that Coleman rose in to first put the club on the map last year.
Giteau and Ashley-Cooper pulled off the classy play that set the tone of the final midway through the first half.
Flyhalf Giteau’s 38-year-old mind and body are still sharp. He dabbed a perfect chip kick over the defence which centre Ashley-Cooper swooped on.
Calm as ever, Ashley-Cooper ran and dummied his way towards a support before sending winger John Ryberg over for the try and a decisive 15-3 lead.
Giteau had already set-up the opening try for Ryberg just two minutes earlier with a straightening run and one-handed off-load.
Ashley-Cooper put the final beyond doubt at the 53-minute mark. A raid spread to the left relied on him taking a pass on his bootlaces. He flipped the ball on to fullback Luke Burton, who put former Canadian World Cup star DTH van der Merwe over for a 25-10 lead.
Giteau will also call time on his career after this final high to go with titles in Australia (Brumbies), France (Toulon) and Japan (Suntory). “This is as good a feeling as I’ve had on a rugby field. It’s a special group and everyone came to LA for the right reasons,” Giteau said.
“We played our best at end. The only way to grow the sport in LA is to win and we were told that early on."
Giltinis skipper Dave Dennis, the former Waratahs stalwart, held the MLR shield aloft. He has committed to a second season in LA in 2022.
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