What are we talking about after the Brumbies topped the Australian conference?
1. Finals quirk in Brumbies favour
The Brumbies did enough on Saturday night to earn themselves the top spot in the Australian conference and a home final against the Highlanders. It is a result that reflects the Australian pecking order in many senses, after the ACT side completed its first clean sweep of Australian teams since 2007. With the way the finals format is in the newly expanded Super Rugby, the Brumbies effectively finish top four, along with the three other conference winners, with wildcards filling the last four finals rungs.The way the season has played out, the Brumbies will host a team that has one more win and nine more competition points from 2016. To put it in perspective - were the knockouts just a straight top eight, the Brumbies would be travelling to Wellington or Johannesburg for a quarter-final next weekend.
2. An extra chance to say goodbye
The Brumbies will be a different team in 2017 and they have given their horde of departing players a chance for one more Canberra memory in the Brumbies jersey. Matt Toomua (Leicester), Stephen Moore (Queensland), David Pocock (Japan/sabattical) among others will not call Canberra Stadium their rugby home next season and will run out next weekend knowing this will be their last game for a while. Pocock is one certain to return in future, contracted to the Brumbies in 2018, but forced to watch on as the Brumbies beat the Force. The flanker should return next weekend and it’ll be a timely comeback after another round of injury blows. One who won’t have his fairytale chance is Joe Tomane, who broke his leg in club rugby, but he and the retired Ita Vaea will be in the forefront of their teammates’ minds as the knockouts begin.
3. Tomas a top buy
Tomas Cubelli has been a find for the Brumbies this season and he was once again pivotal for the Brumbies. The Pumas scrumhalf had a hand in almost every Brumbies try in the first stanza, before being replaced midway through the second half by Joe Powell. Cubelli’s has been one of the smartest acquisitions in Super Rugby this season, putting aside the ongoing argument about Australian depth, and will be a handy mentor for Powell and Michael Dowsett.
4. From awe to snore
If ever you needed an example of the gap between Australian and New Zealand rugby, at least at Super level, this day epitomised it. Watching the slog fest that was the Brumbies vs Force after back-to-back thrillers across the ditch was like returning to work after a long weekend. Play the way you need to win, sure, but a set piece scrap won’t be enough against a Highlanders team high on confidence.
5. One last silver lining elude Force
It’s been a painful year for the Western Force and some could be forgiven for feeling a sense of relief as the final curtain was brought down. On and off the field, the Force have faced adversity - from an Australian rugby-first alliance wih the ARU to a dire on-field record, a coaching staff in flux and a discipline breach that could only have been less well-timed had it come from the Parramatta Eels. Players, headlined by fullback Dane Haylett-Petty, have shown glimpses of promise and they will add a handful of new faces next season, so not all is lost. But for now, a looming holiday might be exactly what the rugby doctor ordered for the team from the mighty west.