After defeat in the 2015 Super Rugby final, it was a case of ‘Retribution for Hurricanes’ supporters this year, as their team were finally crowned champions. Winning the final 20-3 in front of a packed Westpac Stadium crowd. The team withstood a Lions challenge to be victorious after 20 long seasons of trying.
Hurricanes 20 Lions 3
The Grand Final had come from a commendable season where the Hurricanes did all they could to make up for the pains of 2015. Losing 14-21 thirteen months ago, the side had made consecutive finals and would not allow the same result tonight. Even though only a small handful of players from last year were involved, the occasion was a double-edged sword. They approached the game smarter, more focused and were a better composed side.
Lessons learned from not only a final, but also the 2015 campaign would have been initiated by the coaches and players alike. New men would have been coached on the self belief and motivation required. Outside factors would have been used to better prepare the side. Mental strength, better coping skills. Tonight they played with a conviction not often seen from a Hurricanes side. Over the course of three final series games, they have conceded only 12 points. An incredible achievement, and the opposition paid tribute to that.
Lions captain Warren Whitely recognized that the result hinged on several key moments. “It is tough. Two mistakes from us were pounced on by them [Hurricanes] and credit must be given.” The young player would know that; like the ‘Canes had, that his men would have learned from the result. “This loss will only make us stronger.” In that comment, he respects that the experience of 2015 would have been of benefit tonight for the winning Wellington side.
Lessons learned after defeat in a final
Victor Vito put it to media post-game “we used it as motivation, yes.” In regards to the memories of the defeat of last season, he countered that “our boys knew that we couldn’t let that take us off task. It’s good to win, and I suppose the old saying ‘you gotta lose a final before you can win one’ has been true. We knew that the whole side needed to play to our best to achieve this [win]”. In his final match for the franchise, Vito now leaves with an almost fairy tale end.
Very much the senior player, he debuted in 2009. Playing his 100th Super Rugby match tonight, he leaves for La Rochelle, in the French Rugby competition. Satisfied, it has capped an instrumental performance and an elevation to senior leader for Vito. Spoken of as the one of the key men, the coaching staff respected his input. Beside Tj Perenara and Cory Jane, they each played significant parts tonight.
Coming off a role with the World Cup winning All Blacks, he formed an impressive loose forward trio beside Ardie Savea and Brad Shields. Big hits put in tonight stopped much of the Lions offensive play. Personally though, he is as much as happy for himself, as he is for young men like Beauden Barrett.
Man of the Match Barrett seals victory
Barrett kicked two penalties, two conversions and scored a try himself,. A ‘Man of the Match’ performance to yet again captivate the rugby world. Acclaimed by men like Sean Fitzpatrick and many others, Barrett was ‘still buzzing’ after the whistle and said it was one of the best nights of his life. The Taranaki player has developed exceptionally well over the season to be lauded as the best running first-five in the modern game. He was happy to have a crack but has respect for the team goals, as much as the plaudits of winners medals and tributes.
— Sean Fitzpatrick (@frontrow92) August 6, 2016
He was surprised that the Lions did not kick as much, as the wind favoured them in the second half. The opposition played a style that they did not seem comfortable with, and the conditions did not make for entertaining, running rugby. Barrett adapted better than his opposite Elton Jantjies, who seemed overawed by the event. A lot was placed on his shoulders, and hehe did not play consistently to give his team any of the advantage that Barrett can.
Sense of relief and deeply proud of his team
Head coach Chris Boyd was pleased with his side. As too was skipper Dane Coles. The hooker had struggled for fitness (after a rib injury removed him from the semi final) and he was replaced after 45 minutes. Incredibly, his replacement Ricky Riccitelli was sent to the ‘blood bin’ so Coles had to struggle back on. His team mates were amazed at his commitment, to soldier on. Boyd knew his leader would go on, even in pain. Barrett commented that Colezy would “bleed for this team”.
Any player that will do that; to push on with an injury leads by example. When it came to being awarded the newly minted Super Rugby trophy, he might have struggled to raise the 31kg monster over his head, but adrenaline saw him salute the crowd. The image attached captures the shear delight of a team who achieved a dream that others had. In recalling some of the past legends, each player will know that this reward is not just for them–it is for those that played before them.
Retribution for Hurricanes in 2016 Final
It turned out that the Lions from Johannesburg in South Africa, were the side who were more unaccustomed to the pressure. Entering that franchise’s very first final, the visitors were never in the lead and struggled to adapt to the conditions. While not a concession, head coach Johan Ackerman was left to ponder what might have been. “We can debate the Jaguares decision, but the opposition were placed above us. We respect that. This Lions team had some great victories, some local derbies and the quarter final/semi final win. I’m very happy with how we played this year”.
A side may be reflected on by a single result, but similar in a way that the Hurricanes rebounded, the Lions of 2017 will only be stronger for this. Asked by South African media if he believed many of his players were deserving of Springboks call up, he agreed. “This result will hurt, but yes some of the guys will represent and others will go play Currie Cup“.
Self belief can be drawn from experience
What is a common thread is that the self belief that the Hurricanes used in their redemption for their 2016 campaign, the Lions can also take away for themselves next year. Tonight ‘to the victor goes the spoils’. The legions of ‘Canes supporters who left Westpac Stadium on a brutally cold and wet evening will all carry a smile.
— Justin Lester (@justin_lester) August 6, 2016
And their 2016 team will carry the Super Rugby trophy back to their hotel and celebrate. Coach John Plumtree said he might have the ‘babysit’ it for the night (if he can take it from the players). They will enjoy the spoils of victory, won 20-3 in front of their home fans. And won in superb fashion.