Hurricanes - Super Rugby Champions 2016 - Green and Gold Rugby
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Hurricanes – Super Rugby Champions 2016

Hurricanes – Super Rugby Champions 2016

HURRICANES (voice up) HURRICANES (voice down) HURRICANES [Repeat]. It may be a while before the echo stops in my head.

The Kiwis are the first and only conference in Super Rugby where all franchises have won a final. The Hurricanes managed to keep their record clean – no tries have been scored against them in the finals series in 2016 and they have a new club record – eight wins in a row.

Pre-game the Lions looked really excited but something in their demeanour suggested that their season highlight was last week. Today was a bonus. The Lions gave the Hurricanes halves pairing a lot more to think about than previous games – it just wasn’t enough.

The Hurricanes key weapon was their fearless lack of concern for possession. And a rush defense that consistently closed down the Lions play at the second receiver. They generally won the kicking battles and were more effective on the counter. Especially on first or second phase play. When the Lions turned possession into territory, the ’Canes simply knuckled under with their defense.

First Half

Windy Wellington. Not the cyclone we have seen, but a freezing and wet Antarctic blast. Conditions varied from dry to drizzle throughout the game.

Early on the Lions gained a penalty (off side, Hurricanes immediately testing how far they can push the defense). As happens in The Cake Tin, the ball is blown off the tee. Elton Jantjies has to hurry. The kick is wide.

The Lions dominate possession. TJ Perenara looks to even the stat by playing the forwards one out through pick and go and single play phases. A loose ‘Cane ball has Perenara immediately snapping back into opportunity mode. Pass to Beauden Barrett who kick passes for the corner. Corey Jane dives over. It’s called back by the TMO to an earlier knock on.

My count shows the TMO has gone back four phases. (Can they do that?)

The first kicking duel has Barrett and Jantjies not dominating. Barrett offers the ball to Ruan Combrinck instead. His kick is fluffed. Territory gain to the Hurricanes. It’s called back for Lions offside. Penalty by Barrett, Hurricanes 3-nil Lions.

Both packs are working hard. The Hurricanes rush defense is creating real problems for the Lions. Jantjies has no room and no time. He is slowly getting deeper. There is no time or space for an. He forces a pass and Lionel Mapoe makes rushes a kick. Exceptional handling skills by Corey Jane to gather this kick on the fly and dives over the line. This one sticks! Barrett converts, Hurricanes 10 Lions nil.

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There was a question as to whether the Lions, with their superb centres, would be able to deal with the ‘Canes line speed. The second receiver is targeted, what can the Lions centres do? We are just past the first quarter and an answer is forming. [Not much!]

Jantjies is offered a penalty (that line speed being judged off side), Hurricanes 10-3 Lions.

The Lions line outs are being disrupted, the kicking isn’t working and they are not breaking the line, or when they do desperate Hurricanes defense holds up.

So they opt for the scrum. A lot in a short period. It is dominant. Repeated infringements must surely see some referee action. Out of the blue, the Hurricanes pack goes all awesome. The ‘Canes demolish the opposition and THEY gain a scrum penalty. The Lions must be hurting from having failed to gain points from this period.

The overriding story is that the Lions have not yet found a response to the Hurricanes defense and line speed. And not much else in their bag of tricks is scoring either.

Half Time Hurricanes 10 – Lions 3

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Second Half

Dane Coles has been playing with damaged ribs from a fortnight earlier. That’s got to be an uncomfortable injury for a hooker. He leaves the field in pain three minutes after half time. Ricky Riccitelli immediately makes the same impact he did last week when Coles wasn’t available.

A period of play has the Lions swarming and the Hurricanes defense going backwards. Good gains by the Lions and the ‘Canes haven’t managed to marshal their defense for once. This ends by a high exit kick that Courtnall Skosan knocks forward into the hands of his team mate Franco Mostert. He’s been playing the house down for the Lions but gives away a penalty here. Barrett is successful with the kick. Hurricanes 13-3 Lions.

The ‘Canes gain a little extra zip in their step with these points. The rush defense is back and the line speed is back up to 11 on the dial.

The match has now settled. Possession mostly with the Lions who are unable to do much with it. For the Hurricanes Loni Uhila (prop known as “the Tongan Bear”) is damaging. Michael Fatialofa (lock) and Brad Shields (6) are powerful and Ardie Savea (7) is everywhere.

Riccitelli takes a head knock. The ref insists he is replaced for a blood bin. Dane Coles returns! Ribs, pain and all! He has to survive a collapsed scrum – and a pat on the head from Malcolm Marx. Opposing hookers are a supportive bunch – after the game. Riccitelli is back two minutes later, and bleeds through to the final bell.

With 15 minutes to go Ackerman (Lions coach) starts the bench changes. The match is still truly available for the Lions, though few in the crowd believe it will happen.

Barrett leaps for a catch and is taken out in the air. Penalty kick for a 15 yard line out. The ‘Canes muck up the line out, but the Lions weren’t expecting the ball. Confusion between Jaco Kriel and replacement Ross Cronje sees the ball grubbing across the try line with Riccitelli and Barrett (flying out of nowhere) fighting for the try. Barrett wins. And converts.

It’s over. The Lions desperation sets in but they get no closer.

Congratulations to the Hurricanes, 2106 Super Rugby winners!

Final Score Hurricanes 20 – Lions 3

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Game Changer

The Lions refused the points on offer and opted for scrums in a period between 30 and 35 minutes. The Hurricanes finished it with a one off perfect scrum. After this the Lions could only repeat things that were not working.

Man of the Match

Plumtree (Hurricanes defense coach) must be mentioned (again). Perenara and Barrett are high on the list (again). But surely with all that defense a forward must be rewarded. This time the decision goes on passion. My MOTM goes to the irrepressible Dane Coles.

The Details

Score and Scorers

Hurricanes – 20
Tries: Corey Jane (22′) Beauden Barrett(69′)
Conversions: Beaudan Barrett 2/2
Penalties: Beaudan Barret 2/2  


Lions – 3
Tries: Nil
Conversions: Nil
Penalties: Elton Janites 1/3 

Cards & Citings

Nil

  • Paul

    What a great game and well deserved win to the Hurricanes. It’s been wet and windy in Wellington for the past 3 weeks which must have given them some advantage.

    Not to concede a single try in the final series was incredible considering the attacking strength of the teams they played (Chiefs, Lions primarily).

    Looking forward to the Rubgy Championship / Bledisloe now…

  • Tomthusiasm

    I was so impressed with Riccitelli, last week in included, but to be able to step into Coles’ shoes in the final shows a bright future ahead. I hope he sticks around.

  • Keeping the Faith

    I think we all have to spare a sympathetic thought here to poor Matt Rowley. I mean here it is another bloody rugby title going to the Kiwi’s and God dammit now every Kiwi team can claim victory in the Super Rugby competition. Listen, I admit the NZ teams played some pretty special rugby this season but why the hell couldn’t the Lions have just completed a victory here to give Matt an overdue moment of happiness. Fark me, we can’t even blame Richie McCaw cheating or Craig Joubert bias for this latest kiwi success. Now the bloody Kiwi’s have retained the World Cup, the Bledisloe Cup and the Super Rugby prize. It is just too painful. Still, at least we have the Sevens girls to look forward to in Rio right? Thank God for Women’s Sevens rugby.

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      I do have some sympathy mate. Just a smidgen. Your teams will come right again, they just need some patience and leadership from the ARU and franchise’s. You have some great players but I’m not sure that it’s all tied together well

    • Mica

      You remind me of my kids when the youngest wants to annoy the eldest.

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Nice write up mate. Damn that’s been a long time coming but boy it feels good today. Never lost faith, even in the dark days of Hammett, and it’s all been justified this year. Woot friggen woot!

  • Jimmy T

    Like it or not, there has to be questions posed on the Lions after that disappointing performance last night. Sure the conditions were not suitable, but there was a distinct lack of accuracy with much of what they did and a lack of poise in critical moments on attack. Maybe they were the 2nd best team in the competition. Not sure it was on display when most needed last night.

    • Tomthusiasm

      I think it came down to those two tries, when the Canes pounced on the Lions’ mistakes and the Lions couldn’t capitalise on whatever scraps they got. It’s a tough ask to travel from Africa and win the title, they really should rue sending that B team to Argentina (perhaps they had too many burnt out players) but history has shown that the road trip is too difficult to overcome.

  • harry_horse

    So it turns out that being the greatest team on turf has been the wrong approach for the hurricanes all these years. Defense wins championships. Cliches are real and all that.

    Well done the might Canes.

    • Tomthusiasm

      Also another cliche, you have to lose a final before you can win one. (Unless you’re the Highlanders, of course… Pricks)

  • dru

    Have to agree with that. In particular I suspect that Halaholo and Proctor are key to the rush defense. The opposition is closed down at second reciever. Right where the ‘cane centers are set up.

    They dont get much planned distributed ball from Beauden. Lets see if they expand the game plan next year. Scarey to think there may be more to come.

  • Tomthusiasm

    Jane is back next season, and btw, didn’t he have a blinder?

    Hopefully Shields can fill the Vito void though…

Rugby

Too small for the pack too slow for the backs - the exception that makes the rule that rugby is a game for all sizes. Qld bred rugby fan with an eye on South Africa.

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