Hurricanes win maiden Super Rugby title with 20-3 victory over Lions

The Hurricanes are the 2016 Super Rugby champions following a 20-3 win over the Lions in Saturday's final in Wellington

Hurricanes win maiden Super Rugby title with 20-3 victory over Lions
The Hurricanes celebrate winning the Super Rugby title (image via: Hurricanes/Twitter)

The Hurricanes are 2016 Super Rugby champions, following a 20-3 victory over the Lions at Westpac Stadium in Wellington

Chris Boyd's side really stood up in defence against a confident Lions side who had scored 42 points in their previous two playoff games, holding them to a solitary penalty goal in the first-half.

There was a try in either half for the 'Canes, with Cory Jane capitalising on a loose kick to score in the first, while man-of-the-match Beauden Barrett continued his exquisite form by diving on a loose ball 15 minutes from time to wrap up the title. 

Lions mistakes hand Hurricanes impetus and half-time lead

Coming into this final having not conceded a try for 211 minutes, the Hurricanes defence has played a huge role in them getting this far in the competition. 

The first-half was all about that defence, with the ferocious tackling and intense line speed really stifling the Lions who had hoped to play their all-court game, running from deep if possible. 

After a Barrett penalty had opened the scoring for the home side, that very line speed forced the Lions into a catastrophic error to allow the Canes to score their first try.

Cory Jane after scoring the game's opening try (image via: Andrew Cornaga/Photosport)

A typically savage tackle from Brad Shields forced the Lions behind the gain line, and after rushing the ball wide, Lionel Mapoe's errant kick fell straight into the hands of Jane who saw off the challenge of Franco Mostert to score in the corner. 

The South African side regrouped well despite facing a blanket defence for much of the opening half, and grabbed three points from the boot of Elton Jantjies to get on the scoreboard. 

Then, just before the break, the Lions had won the kicking battle and were deep in Hurricanes territory. Having been awarded a penalty, they turned down three points and instead opted for a scrum, only to be shoved off the ball by the Hurricanes tight-five who were awarded a penalty of their own which they celebrated raucously. 

Hurricanes players celebrate the opening try (image via: Andrew Cornaga/Photosport)

Canes defence holds out with Barrett adding the finishing touches

With a seven-point lead going into the second-half, and playing against the wind, the Hurricanes were far from home-and-dry. Things got even tougher for the hosts, when skipper Dane Coles, who missed last weekend's semi-final win with a rib injury, was forced to leave the field in the 43rd minute after taking another big shot. 

The Lions just couldn't find any rhythm though, and were playing in the wrong areas of the field to really hurt the Hurricanes who's kicking game was on-point throughout the final. 

Barrett added another penalty in the 50th minute to stretch the lead out to ten, with Jantjies then missing an easier opportunity to cut into the lead from the tee, slicing the ball wide of the uprights. 

The defining moment in the game came 12 minutes from time, and it occurred following another mistake on their own territory from the Lions. 

Two Lions players got in one anothers way which forced the ball loose, with Hurricanes replacement hooker Ricky Riccitelli then toeing the ball towards the try-line. From absolutely nowhere, Barrett came steaming through, and was first to the loose ball, getting downward pressure to score the game's second try.  

Dane Coles and Beauden Barrett celebrate winning the Super Rugby title (image via: Hurricanes/Twitter)

Warren Whiteley's men never gave up and came close to scoring a consolation close to the end, but the staunch Hurricanes defence held out to complete three playoff victories all without conceding a try. 

The Lions and head coach Johan Ackermann were left to lick their wounds, after their gamble to rest the entire first team in week 17 backfired which had seen them lose home advantage throughout the playoffs. 

Meanwhile, the home town Hurricanes now complete the quintet of New Zealand sides to have become Super Rugby champions and have paid their fans back for the amount of close-misses. The likes of Johah Lomu, Christian Cullen and Ma'a Nonu could never quite get over the finishing line, but this group of players led by Coles and Boyd have managed to create history on the 100th and final Hurricane appearance from back-rower Victor Vito