To take the Stormers for a full 80, I think was a really solid effort
Stirling Mortlock, one of the most durable and competitive players in the history of the sport, were as combative as ever in his final match at the weekend.
Playing in his last match before heading into the rugby sunset, the retiring Rebels captain and Wallaby legend came within a whisker of leading the Melbourne outfit to an upset win over the more fancied Stormers.
In the end Mortlock ended his career - and the Rebels their second Super Rugby season - in Cape Town by succumbing 21-26 to the table-topping Stormers.
And afterwards the legendary Wallaby utility back spoke of the "frustration" of not being able to retire on the back of a win.
"I spoke to the team before the game about our intent and our desire to play well," Mortlock told this website, when asked about his emotions after defeat in his final match.
"I think that was really evident," the long-serving Mortlock said of the team's determination to make it a victorious departure for him.
"That was pleasing," he said of the performance, adding: "Probably the most disappointing thing from our end is that we did enough to get ourselves into the game and possibly even get a victory against a team that is outstanding.
"Unfortunately that has been the way this season has panned out for us.
"There were times when we played well against quality opposition, when we were close but not quite there.
"However, you certainly prefer that than being nowhere near the opposition, but nonetheless it is probably more frustrating."
Mortlock, as he did in his 80 Tests and almost 150 Super Rugby matches, had a few 'interesting' discussions with South African referee Lourens van der Merwe.
Afterwards he admitted that he did not agree with all the calls made.
"From our perspective, in the first half, we were on the wrong side of the ledger as far as getting penalised was concerned," Mortlock told this website, when asked about his 'debates' with Van der Merwe.
"From my perspective there were a couple of times when we drove a line-out and thought we might get a penalty ... instead we got penalised for not releasing and then we got penalised for the same thing.
"It was tough, but we knew we had to deal with that and I think we did pretty well and eventually the tide turned and we got a bit of momentum and likewise got a few more calls from the referee."
Mortlock also expressed his pride at his team's performance, as he left the Super Rugby arena for the last time.
The Rebels gave the Stormers several second-half scares - coming back from trailing 0-16 at the half-time break to close the gap to 14-16 and then from trailing 14-23 to narrow the gap to two points again, 21-23.
Despite a late Peter Grant penalty, to make the final score 26-21, the Rebels excellent defence was enough to see the Stormers through to the final whistle.
"I'm extremely proud of the 22 guys who took the field, and not just that obviously, but the whole franchise," Mortlock said.
"To play as well as we did [at Newlands], to take the Stormers for a full 80, I think was a really solid effort.
"There's another four or five guys who are retiring, and we leave the franchise knowing that it's in safe hands moving forward."
Known as a player that always push so hard and went flat out in every game, Mortlock will be remembered for the many highs in a career spanning 15 years.
He holds the records as the fastest Australian to reach both 50 and 100 points, and the first Australian to score 20 or more points in four consecutive Tests.
He scored over 1000 Super Rugby points, and just short of 500 in Tests.
Mortlock began playing with Lindfield Juniors and was educated at The King's School in Parramatta, Sydney.
He represented Australia at Under-19 and Under-21 level before pursuing a professional career with the Brumbies.
In 1998 Mortlock joined the Brumbies and was part of the Brumbies Super Rugby championships team in 2001.
In 2004 he succeeded George Gregan as Brumbies captain and played every game that season except the Final, due to injury, and thus was unable to lead the team to claim the Super 12 title that year.
Then Wallaby coach Rod McQueen plucked Mortlock out of club rugby at the age of 20 to tour Argentina with the Wallabies in 1997.
However, it was not till 2000 that he made his Test debut against Argentina.
In 2006 Mortlock became the 73rd player to captain the Wallabies.
Last month he announced his retirement from rugby at the conclusion of the 2012 Super Rugby season and Saturday he made his final first class appearance at age 35.
By Jan de Koning