Cooper’s tumultuous campaign came to a disastrous end in the 22nd minute when he suffered a suspected torn cruciate ligament that, if confirmed on Saturday, would require at least six months on the sidelines.

New Zealand’s “Public Enemy No.1” received several minutes’ treatment before rising to his feet and limping off to his first warm applause of the tournament.

Australia also lost Kurtley Beale in the ninth minute to a recurrence of his hamstring injury and then halfback Will Genia, skipper James Horwill and fellow lock Nathan Sharpe in the second half.

But down on troops and on the scoreboard, the Wallabies battled courageously from an 8-7 deficit after 50 minutes to secure the consolation bronze medal and bury their 25-year Eden Park hoodoo.

Midfielder Berrick Barnes had a blinder, starring from start to finish to be a deserved man of the match after assuming handling Cooper’s five-eighth playmaking role with class.

At one point in the second half, English referee Wayne Barnes – the official at the centre of New Zealand’s controversial quarter-final exit from the 2007 World Cup – again missed a glaring forward pass in the lead-up to the try that put Wales into the lead.

Replays confirmed five-eighth James Hook’s offload to winger Shane Williams was at least a metre forward and it would have been a travesty had the gallant Wallabies lost as a result.

But two Penalty goals from winger James O’Connor, who again excelled, in the space of three minutes nudged Australia back into a 13-8 lead before Barnes slotted a 68th-minute drop goal to give the Wallabies an eight-point buffer.

Stephen Jones briefly reduced the deficit to less than a converted try with a penalty but it was all over when No.8 Ben McCalman crossed out wide four minutes from time after Adam Ashley-Cooper had been stripped of possession as he tried to score the clincher.

Cooper, who had played every single minute for Australia this campaign, had been booed with virtually his every touch of the ball over the past six weeks and continued to attract jeers until being hurt in Australia’s farewell encounter.

But even Welsh fans gave the embattled playmaker a standing ovation when he dejectedly trudged to the sheds.

Cooper had been instrumental in the Wallabies earning their 7-3 halftime lead, his double-pump pass putting Barnes over under the sticks from a scrum move in the 12th minute.

O’Connor’s conversion made it 7-0, but with Beale and Cooper off, the Wallabies lost the attacking spark they showed early on.

After looking great with Cooper and the creative Barnes in the midfield, replacements Rob Horne and Anthony Faingaa formed a new-look centre pairing, with Barnes moving to fly-half and Adam Ashley-Cooper to fullback.

A 20th-minute penalty goal from Hook edged the Welsh to within four points of Australia, who had been led onto the field by Sharpe in his 100th Test.

Despite falling behind in the second section, the Wallabies rallied for a spirited victory, their first at New Zealand’s spiritual home since 1986.

Wales scored a consolation try to fullback Leigh Halfpenny and the conversion signalled the end.