High praise for magical Toomua
Matt Toomua scored a hat-trick of tries as the Brumbies powered into the Super Rugby play-offs with a barnstorming 47-25 win over the Force.
Matt Toomua scored a hat-trick of tries as the Brumbies powered into the Super Rugby play-offs with a barnstorming 47-25 win over Western Force in Canberra on Friday.
It was a winner-takes-all Australian derby with both teams level on 40 points and needing to win to take their place in next week's top-six play-offs.
The Brumbies, twice winners of the Southern Hemisphere championship, will have to wait until the result of the Highlanders' match on Saturday with the Crusaders to see whether they keep hold of fourth place and a home play-off next week.
The Highlanders must beat the Crusaders in Christchurch to deny the Brumbies fourth place.
Brumbies Director of Rugby Laurie Fisher applauded Toomua's performance.
"He was fantastic," Fisher said.
"He was on the front foot defensively and made some fantastic decisions on the short side," he said.
"And again, off the back of some really good hard work by the forwards."
Fisher said his team benefited from the return of a swag of players, including Wallabies Toomua, Sam Carter, Joe Tomane and Pat McCabe.
"It showed in the quality of the team. It was just a red hot performance," he said.
Brumbies skipper Ben Mowen said the side had gone into the match looking to shut the competition's leading pilferer Matt Hodgson down at the breakdown.
"We spoke a lot about denying contests and I don't think Hodgson got a pilfer - which says a lot about how hard the guys worked," he said.
It was the Brumbies' biggest win of the season and puts them in great heart for next week's play-off.
"To get a score like that in the final round when a finals spot is on the line is a really pleasing result," Mowen added.
"I think we'll play the Highlanders next week, the Crusaders will be really strong at home but we'll sit back and wait and see."
Force coach Michael Foley said the loss wouldn't take the gloss off what was a great season for the franchise.
"We're disappointed in that performance, but it's pretty hard for any one performance to be a defining factor in the season," he said.
"Early on we didn't defend well enough. We gave them a couple of tries.
"When you look at a season's work, there's a fair bit that goes into it and it would be fairly narrow to look at any one game to decide whether it was a great season or a bad one.
"I think the guys have been outstanding this season.
"They've won more games than any other Force team in the club's history. To win last week and have the chance to make the final this week was our second goal and we fell short to a team that played very well.
"As much as we're disappointed now - and I'll speak from my own - they've taken a massive step towards things they could aspire to in the future."
It was a sad end for the Force, who were bidding for their first Super Rugby finals campaign and they finished with three tries to Pek Cowan, Chris Tuatara-Morrison and Zack Holmes.
Force captain Matt Hodgson said despite the loss it had been a great season for the Perth-based side.
"We've learned how to win consistently and it's now just a case of learning how to play those big games like and we'll improve again next year," he said.