Hurricanes' team effort exemplified by wounded skipper Dane Coles

By Kris Shannon

Hurricanes captain Dane Coles makes another break during the Super Rugby final victory against the Lions. Photo /  Mark Mitchell
Hurricanes captain Dane Coles makes another break during the Super Rugby final victory against the Lions. Photo / Mark Mitchell

If there was one moment that exemplified the Hurricanes' unflinching charge to their first Super Rugby title, it arrived shortly after reserve hooker Ricky Riccitelli fell face-first into an opponent.

Almost before the first drop of blood flowed from the unfortunate rookie's nose, Dane Coles had leapt from the substitutes' bench and removed his tracksuit jacket.

Coles, of course, spent the last fortnight mired in a rib-related injury saga that saw him bracketed before both the semifinal victory over the Chiefs and last night's triumph against the Lions.

The Hurricanes skipper was scratched from the former but led his side out in the latter, only to cop another painful shot to the mid-section shortly after halftime in his side's 20-3 win.

And yet, when his team needed him most, when Riccitelli's face was resplendently red, Coles showed no hesitation for his health, heading straight back into battle.

"I made a run and didn't have too much in me," a content Coles said after the game. "But, mate, it's a final.

"I knew [Riccitelli] was only a blood bin so it was just one of those things you wanted to do for the team."

These Hurricanes, as is so often the mark of championship sides, placed a clear emphasis on sacrificing for one another. If it was any other way, they would have had no hope of progressing through the playoffs without conceding a try, blanking the competitions's two top-scoring teams in consecutive weeks.

Coles was only a small part of that, given he played little more than 80 combined minutes across the three knockout fixtures, but his leadership in a debut season as skipper clearly set a tone.

It's questionable whether the All Blacks coaches would have been as thrilled as the home fans to see the hooker forgo personal safety - given the Rugby Championship starts in a fortnight - but for one night only one thing mattered.

"To finally bring a championship to the Hurricanes franchise is just awesome," Coles said. "I'm just so proud of the group - not just the players who played but the management and all the guys who wore that strip. As you can hear in [the changing room], it means a lot to this group."

The party had certainly started by the time Coles fronted the media and, considering the way they once again defended, a little sing-a-long was more than deserved.

The Hurricanes' line speed was again immense and, given some of the hits applied, there will be no shortage of weary bodies on the Lions' flight back to Johannesburg.

Coles attributed his side's impenetrable defensive stand to a few factors, from trust in one another, to respect for the opponents, to the legacy of the late Jerry Collins.

"JC was a big part of our defensive theme team this year," Coles said. "You have to show that relentless work-rate for 80 minutes and I think we did that tonight.

"Defence wins you games and defence wins you championships."

- NZ Herald

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