Super Rugby Round 16: Reds, Waratahs produce best derby in years

Another streak over.

The Rebels ended a 32-game winless streak for Australian sides in New Zealand when they downed the Blues in Eden Park, meanwhile Aussie sides continue winning with the Brumbies powering over the Sunwolves in Canberra.

In New Zealand, the Crusaders kept their winning run alive, but the Hurricanes couldn't get back to their winning ways, struggling in Dunedin.

Read on for some of the key talking points across the weekend.

Australian Conference

Best Aussie derby in how many years?

In a huge weekend for Australian Super Rugby sides, the Melbourne Rebels ended Australia's 32-game winless run in New Zealand, after they downed the Blues in Auckland. While the Brumbies scored a bonus-point win over the Sunwolves, with Wallabies Scott Sio, Allan Alaalatoa and David Pocock making impressive cameos despite Rugby Australia wishes for the trio to sit out.

But the biggest game of the round was the much-anticipated grudge match between the Queensland Reds and the Waratahs in Brisbane on Saturday, and neither side disappointed with over 90 points scored in 80 minutes.

Previously one of the most exciting derbies on the calendar and one of Australia's biggest rivalries, with big hits and plenty of blood spilled -- including the long-running battles between Phil Waugh and David Croft -- in recent years fans had been left disappointed with the lack of passion and New South Wales' clear dominance - continued in the Waratahs' 37-16 Round 9 win at the SCG.

But on Saturday, after years of one-sided and frustrating derbies, Australian fans were finally treated to an attacking, high-scoring, tug-of-war, with the lead constantly changing before the Waratahs kicked into fifth gear and pulled away for an impressive win.

With 15 players from the Wallabies squad taking to the field in front of Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, it was the final chance for several players to secure their place in the Wallabies' opening Test against Ireland on Saturday.

Waratahs' Bernard Foley stepped up to celebrate his 100th Super Rugby cap in style -- despite a wayward pass in the early minutes which was picked off by Scott Higginbotham to draw first blood -- running his backline like a well-oiled machine. With sweeping movements taking the Reds defence from side-to-side, he set up several tries, including Israel Folau's high-flying effort just before half-time, which saw the star fullback leap over his opposite to collect a kick-pass for one of the best tries of the night.

It was just one of Folau's magical moments on Saturday night, with the fullback returning to some of his best form. He looked threatening every time he touched the ball, collecting high balls with ease across the field and sniping at the Reds backline, with his second try coming off the back of a risky Reds chip that saw Folau cut through a scrambling Reds defence to cross in the corner.

Michael Hooper could do no wrong as usual, battling it out with Reds veteran George Smith at the breakdown, while Nick Phipps made sure to step up in one of his few chances to start for the Tahs; delivering fast, accurate passes from the ruck.

The Reds forward pack also made sure to impress, dominating the Tahs scrum and hitting the line hard to make easy metres through the middle, with Taniela Tupou and Wallabies hopeful Caleb Timu crashing over for close range tries.

Just as impressive for their sides were two players who missed out on the Wallabies squad. Higginbotham made an impression on the game from the opening minutes, picking off Foley's loose pass to send Izaia Perese over for the first try, before crossing for his own meat pie in the 14th minute. While Taqele Naiyaravoro continued to display just how unstoppable he is in the corner, busting through several tackles to dot it down in the first half.

While Cheika would have been impressed with the intense derby, he wouldn't have been happy with the news Rebels' Jordan Uelese - the only hooker named with Test experience - has been ruled out of the three Test series through a ruptured ACL, leaving the door wide open for Australia's other hookers.

But their backrow stocks were bolstered after New Zealand Rugby Union agreed to release Crusaders' Pete Samu to the Wallabies squad late on Sunday afternoon making the Melbourne-born flanker available for the Ireland Test series.

New Zealand Conference

Hurricanes fail to fire again

Chasing the top seed in the New Zealand conference, the Hurricanes couldn't afford to drop two on the trot, especially against fellow Kiwi sides, but similar to their loss to the Crusaders last week, some of the Canes biggest names went missing against the Highlanders.

One of the most impressive sides when on song, the Hurricanes have failed to produce a solid game in two weeks, and their latest loss does little to paint a good picture heading into the international break and then the final rounds.

Losing eight players to All Blacks camp over the past fortnight has hardly helped the side, but the Crusaders and Highlanders have also suffered, with both sacrificing players to the three-day get-togethers.

Falling into the trap of playing the Highlanders' fast-paced game, the Hurricanes struggled to keep up, with a faltering lineout forcing them to spend much of the game in defence. While the Highlanders produced one of their best games of the season and are starting to look a more dangerous outfit.

Similar to a week earlier, the Hurricanes were confronted physically, but put up little resistance and struggled to match the Highlanders' intensity, leaving coach Chris Boyd with much to ponder over the international window.

Meanwhile All Blacks coach Steve Hansen must have been shaking his head after two young squad members were left red faced over the weekend in two separate incidents.

News broke on Saturday that All Blacks rising star Jordie Barrett was found uninvited in a Dunedin home with a friend eating takeaway. The fullback denied being intoxicated and claimed it was human error, but with the police called before taking no further action, Hansen, a former policeman, was unimpressed by the lack of professionalism.

On Sunday, it was revealed All Blacks winger Reiko Ioane had been treated for a cut above his eye after "antics" with a Blues teammate after their loss to the Rebels. While it's unclear what these 'antics' were, it's easy to guess that things got heated between the teammates after Ioane stated "We were just poking fun at each other. It's not serious and I've apologised to my teammates and club."

With the All Blacks first Test against France less than a week away, these off-field hijinks come at a poor time.

At least relations between New Zealand Rugby Union and Rugby Australia can get back to normal after NZRU agreed to release Pete Samu to Australia.

After requesting compensation from Rugby Australia for Samu's release -- which RA refused to pay -- it was announced late on Sunday afternoon that Samu would be joining the Wallabies squad. While it's unclear what concessions were made, NZRU's decision to release the Melbourne flanker shows the sporting body is paying more than lip service to rebuilding Australian rugby to the powerhouse it once was.