The talking points: round 18

by staff

Congratulations to the Waratahs, winners of the Asteron Life Super Rugby Australian conference, with the Brumbies also qualifying for the finals despite a last round loss to the Crusaders. The Reds couldn’t finish 2015 fast enough while the Force shocked the Rebels in Melbourne.

But here are ‘The Talking Points’

1. Table-topping Tahs

After the Brumbies went down in Canberra, the Tahs knew prior to kickoff that nothing could stop them winning the Australian conference but somebody forgot to tell Michael Cheika’s men. A bonus-point win with four second half tries but it was the bone-rattling defence that impressed most. A week off now and then a home semi against the highest ranked qualifier to come. The break handy for Nick Phipps who battled through despite a knee complaint.

2. Foley vs Quade

Touted as the Wallabies flyhalf showdown, there was one clear winner in the 31-5 victory for the Tahs. Two try assists, one line break and another line break assist for the Tahs number 10 while Cooper got over for a superb solo try in an otherwise quiet night in Sydney. It’s a good problem to have for Michael Cheika and the Wallabies with Foley and Cooper offering two completely different styles.

3. Brumbies bruised

The Crusaders came and they conquered, with Dan Carter and Richie McCaw waving Super Rugby goodbye. The 13-point defeat means the Brumbies will travel to South Africa to face the Stormers in week one of the finals. There was plenty of bite in this one with Jaco Peyper peppered in the Capital throughout but three rolling maul tries (one was a penalty try) fired up the Canberra faithful on a chilly afternoon. David Pocock copped a head knock that forced him from the field after halftime and will now be monitored closely on Monday’s flight to Cape Town. Henry Speight was also taken out of the action with both a shoulder and ankle complaint grounding the flying winger. In better Brumbies news, Matt Toomua got through 30 minutes as he returned from an ankle injury.

4. Force finish fighting

In reality, this game didn’t set the world on fire but there was plenty of grit from the Force. It’s largely been a year to forget but hopefully Matt Hodgson and co. remember this one when they start their preparations for 2016. The Rebels had their chances with laser boot Mike Harris firing a couple of blanks, while the men for Melbourne were denied a certain try after a silly hold from Tom English in back play.

5. Fond Farewells

It’s only natural that the last game of any season will have a few goodbyes but with the four-year World Cup cycle in its peak, 2015 has us saying farewell to a host of Aussie favourites moving overseas. Friday night saw Sam Wykes and Patrick Dellit bowing out for the Force while the Rebels have Scott Higginbotham and Paul Alo-Emile moving on. Will Genia and James Horwill playing their last for the Reds with still no word on the playing future of Quade Cooper. Nic White had his last run in Canberra but Tahs’ departure lounge will get another run in Sydney in a fortnight.