Well now we've been Rugby World Cup free for 4 days, which is just about time to reflect, stop crying and catch up on what has actually been happening in the real world after a month of hitting 'refresh' on the sports page instead of actual news. It's also time for us to hand out our gongs for the best, worst and ugliest of the showpiece tournament - World Rugby were handing out some plastic pieces earlier on in the week, but we all know that this is where the real honours lie...
Best Player: David Pocock. Even if we look past the fact that he has somehow come back from two huge knee injuries to play at the highest level (and I can't even come back from one to play for a pub team), the Aussie openside's performances over the last month and a half have been nothing short of remarkable. With legs like oak-trees and arms that look like socks stuffed with snooker-balls, Pocock's ability to remain unmoveable over the ball was bordering on super-human and, in more than one game, was the clear difference between teams. Consistently brilliant, and a bloody nice chap by all accounts, too.
Runners up: Dan Carter, Nicholas Sanchez.
Breakthrough: Santiago Cordero. I heard someone call him the 'Maradona of rugby', by which I hope he didn't mean that the Pumas' flyer is destined to retire into obesity and cocaine addiction. I suspect that the reference relates to the magic in Cordero's feet and the fearlessness of his play. Yes, he made mistakes, but his constant desire to make things happen electrified the World Cup and made more than a few good defenders look foolish. I spotted him first when he was running riot for the Under 20s (apologies for smugness); I suspect a few more will have their eye on him now.
Runners up: Nehe Milner-Skudder, Gareth Davies.
Dream Team: 1. Marcos Ayerza (ARG); 2. Agustin Creevy (ARG); 3. Sekope Kepu (AUS); 4. Brodie Retallick (NZ); 5. Lood De Jager (RSA); 6. Scott Fardy (AUS); 7. Richie McCaw (NZ); 8. David Pocock (AUS); 9. Gareth Davies (WAL); 10. Dan Carter (NZ); 11. Julian Savea (NZ); 12. Ma'a Nonu (NZ); 13. Conrad Smith (NZ); 14. Santiago Cordero (ARG); 15. Ayumu Goromaru (JPN). Subs: Dane Coles (NZ), Scott Sio (AUS), Ramiro Herrera (ARG), Iain Henderson (IRE), Duane Vermeulen (RSA), Nicholas Sanchez (ARG), Juan Imhoff (ARG).
Best Match: South Africa v Japan. Not just because this was the biggest shock in rugby - or possibly any sport - ever, and not necessarily just because of how much a single result probably gave the World Cup in 2019 a huge shot in the arm after months of uncertainty, but because it was an utterly helter-skelter ride of top quality rugby with one of the greatest finishes to a match ever seen. Compelling doesn't do justice when you had neutrals - hell, even people who didn't like rugby - leaping about like maniacs for the final 10 minutes.
Runners up: Ireland v Argentina for the unbelievable display by the Pumas, England v Wales for the sheer drama (despite ruining my weekend), Australia v New Zealand, for being the best final, ever.
Emerging Force: Japan. For the reasons above, the win over South Africa was huge - but what was really impressive was the way they followed it up. They outclassed and stuffed the USA and Samoa - the latter being a shock in itself - but were unlucky against the Scots as they played off a 4-day turnaround, and visibly ran out of steam after half-time. If a new coach can continue to build a side whose skills base is as good as most international sides and keep them on an upward trajectory, who knows what they can achieve at a home World Cup. They finished as the people's favourites this time around (which I predicted in my preview - although I didn't predict the win over South Africa, on account of not being completely mental).
Runners up: Scotland. They look like a threat for the first time in 20 years. Just don't mention Craig Joubert.
Unsung Hero: England. Well, not the team, obviously, but the hosts. And by hosts, I mean the RFU, the England 2015 Committee and the fans themselves. To be honest, I was one of those decrying the selection of football stadiums over rugby stadiums but, with 98% attendance and record-shattering revenue and TV audiences, it's hard to argue that they didn't lay on a great show. And, to be honest, the rest of the World expected - and wanted (any excuse for Pommy-bashing) - the English fans to give up on the tournament after their own hopes when whirling down the toilet, but they didn't. They still flocked to games - with huge support from other sides, of course - and made a racket and kept the buzz going to the very end. Stiff upper lip and all that.
Biggest Let Down: England. Eugh. Back into the depths of despair I go. The sad thing was that there was genuine hope leading into this tournament - not necessarily an expectation of winning, but at least a hope that they could make some waves and, at least, a semi-final. Instead, after 15 mad minutes against Wales where they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, and a humbling at the hands of the Wallabies, the hosts found themselves out at the group stages for the very first time. Once again, the side showed flashes of promise but ultimately failed when the pressure was on - a depressing theme of this England side.
The Danny Care Sh*t Haircut Award: The All Blacks. Awarded to the lot of them. Even the great Richie McCaw looks like toilet brush, but the rest of them seem to have opted for a shaved sides and back look that makes a lot of them look like they are playing rugby with a kippah on their head. Still, being a squad of sh*t lids seemed to help them on the field so...where're my clippers?
Runners up: Jack Nowell, Joe Marler.
Best Team Try: Niki Goneva (FIJ) v Wales. Outrageous all round - a scything break from deep, mazy running where nobody knows where anyone else is going, and a couple of cheeky offloads too. Brilliant to watch.
Runners up: Juan Imhoff v Tonga, Karne Hesketh v South Africa, DTH Van Der Merwe v Italy
Best Individual Try: Julian Savea (NZ) v France (second try). The bus in full flow on a non-stop trip to the tryline. Frightening stuff.
Runners up: Santiago Cordero v Georgia, Ma'a Nonu v Australia.
Best Hit: Ayumu Goromaru v Scotland. Not necessarily an out-and-out crunch, but if you're looking for the perfect cover try-saver, look no further. It looked for all money that Tommy Seymour would be getting a try in the corner, but Goromaru absolutely buried him into touch; no need even for a TMO on this one.
Runners up: Sean McCalman v Wales, because of Biggar's satisfying head-flick, Adam Ashley-Cooper v Wales, purely because of the read by the veteran winger.
Villain: Craig Joubert. I'm not going to criticise a man for making a mistake - he made a bad (admittedly crucial) call against Scotland, but he had been making dodgy calls all day, penalising the Wallaby scrum and making odd decisions against both sides in the loose (NB I still think that the Maitland yellow was the correct call - it's a stupid rule but we've seen for years that if you go for the ball one handed, you'll probably get a yellow). What nobody rated was the South African referee galloping off the pitch like he'd just been invited to provide massage services to Scarlett Johansson. Whether he needed a sit on the throne or not, he should have had the decency to clench and shake hands with the men whose dream he had just helped to kick into touch.
Runner up: World Rugby, for hanging the aforementioned man out to dry.
World Cup 2019 Winners: Australia. If Cheika can do what he did in one year, imagine what he can do with the Wallabies in four. Then again, England may have found away to actually utilise the wealth of talent at their disposal, and if Argentina continue on their current trend you can't write them off. In fact, it will probably be the most open tournament yet. Ah, heck, who are we kidding? It'll probably be the All Blacks again.