Champion Hurricanes too good for error-riddle Lions
MATCH REPORT: The Hurricanes are Super Rugby champions for the first time, following their 20-3 dismantling of the Lions in a wet Wellington on Saturday.
Having lost in last year's Final, the New Zealand franchises deservedly tasted success this time round - giving the five Kiwi franchises a full-house, with all having won at least one title.
And it also saw Victor Vito departing the Hurricanes, winning the title in his 100th game for the franchise.
The rain, which poured down intermittently during the game made ball control tough, but the Hurricanes were so much better - certainly more accustomed - to the conditions.
It also forced the Lions out of their comfort zone and into a tighter game - in stark contrast to their free-running game that was so successful in the dry conditions on the Highveld.
The Hurricanes' defence remains one of their most outstanding characteristics and they were winning - for most part - the collision area.
In fact the Hurricanes have not conceded a try in more than 300 minutes - throughout the play-offs and most of their last league match.
It was a nervous start by the Lions and not surprising the first try came from a Lions mistake - made under pressure.
It did not help that some of the Lions' key players had a game they would rather forget.
However, the Hurricanes were just too good and too clinical for the visitors.
Lions struggled to hold onto the ball in the wet conditions, but still persisted with their hard-running game - although they went a bit more straight down the middle, rather than go wide so often as they have been in recent weeks in the dry conditions of the Highveld.
Despite the sloppy start, the Lions got the first scoring opportunity, a penalty about 45 metres out - but Jantjies was short, after having to rush his kick because he ball had fallen over and he was running out of time.
The Hurricanes also had an early scoring chance turned down - when Brad Shield had knocked the ball on at a ruck just before a Beauden Barrett cross-field kick had found Cory Jane.
When the Lions went offside in the 11th minute Barrett opened the scoring with a penalty kick.
The Lions had a golden chance in the 15th minute, but TJ Perenara's hand got in the way of a pass during a break down the left-hand tramline.
The first try came in the 22-second minute - a stray Lionel Mapoe chip-kick inside his own 22 going straight into he hands of Cory Jane, who strolled over. Barrett's conversion made it 10-0.
Jantjies manage to open the Lions' account with a penalty in the 25th minute, after the Hurricanes went offside just outside their 22.
And that is how it stayed till the half-time break, despite the Lions pushing hard in the last 10 minute of the half - a combination of the Hurricanes' determined defence and the visitors' own momentary lapses holding them out.
The Lions' start to the second half was just as error-riddled as their nervous opening 10 minutes.
In the 52nd-minute Barrett stretched his team's lead to 10 points, after Franco Mostert was ruled to have caught the ball from an offside position, although there was more than just a hint that it may have come of a Hurricane hand.
The match-winning play came from none other than All Black flyhalf and Hurricanes playmaker Beauden Barrett - who pounced on a sloppy tap-back from the Lions to score the try that gave them an unassailable margin. Barrett made it 20-3 after 70 minutes.
The Lions, try as they might, could not even get a consolation try and had to watch forlornly as the trophy was handed to the Hurricanes.
Man of the match: Franco Mostert, Warren Whiteley, Warwick Tecklenburg and Jaco Kriel all tried hard - as they always do. Lionel Mapoe made some strong runs and Francois de Klerk was the most energetic of the Lions players. Dane Coles deserves some credit for plying through the pain - clearly still having issues with those damaged rib cartilages. Brad Shield put in some massive hits of the hard-charging Lions forwards and Michael Fatialofa put the seal on a remarkable season. Ardie Savea's powerful surges with the ball in hand is also worth mentioning. TJ Perenara was good behind the pack, ensuring Beauden Barrett have good clean ball, but you don't have to look much further than Barrett - with his sublime skills and brilliant control - as the winner of our award.
Moment of the match: The Lions' decision just before half-time to take a scrum after a penalty instead of kicking for posts - then conceding a penalty in the very next scrum was crucial. But Beauden Barrett's try in the 68th minute put the seal on a wonderful win and a great performance.
Villain of the match: None.
For the Hurricanes:
Tries: Jane, Barrett
Cons: Barrett 2
Pens: Barrett 2
For the Lions:
Hurricanes: 15 James Marshall, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Jason Woodward, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Michael Fatialofa, 4 Vaea Fifita, 3 Ben May, 2 Dane Coles (captain), 1 Loni Uhila.
Replacements: 16 Ricky Riccitelli, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Michael Kainga, 19 Mark Abbott, 20 Callum Gibbins, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Vince Aso, 23 Julian Savea.
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Rohan Janse Van Rensburg, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Dylon Smith.
Replacements: 16 Armand Van Der Merwe, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Jacques Van Rooyen, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Ruan Ackermann, 21 Ross Cronje,, 22 Howard Mnisi, 23 Jaco van der Walt.
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)