A suspected rib injury to skipper Dane Coles has cast a shadow over the Hurricanes six-try 41-0 Super Rugby quarter-final win over the Sharks in Wellington.
Coles left the field early in the second half in serious pain, and coach Chris Boyd was afterwards subdued in his assessment of the Hurricanes’ most comprehensive win of the season.
“I’m distraught for Dane Coles – that’s put a bit of a dampener on it for us,” Boyd said.
“He’s done something to a rib or a cartilage, so he’s battling, he’s off to hospital.”
The win means the Hurricanes become the second Kiwi team to make next week’s semi-finals, joining the Highlanders after they edged the Brumbies 15-9 in Canberra on Friday.
A masterful kicking display from All Blacks pivot Beauden Barrett, combined with halfback TJ Perenara’s superb running game laid the base for the comprehensive win.
Boyd afterwards paid tribute to both players.
“I thought Beauden’s kicking game was a masterclass, and I think that’s TJ’s best game this year – he was really good.”
Barrett’s radar was spot on right from the start on Saturday night- he landed a 13th minute penalty into the teeth of the north-westerly gale then five minutes later unleashed a raking punt down the left wing which set up prop Loni Uhila for the first try.
A darting Perenara run down the blindside from an attacking scrum in the 21st minute sent James Marshall over in the corner, the Hurricanes taking the resulting 13-0 lead into halftime.
The loss of Coles soon after the restart looked ominous, but the Hurricanes responded by running in three tries in 12 minutes to lead 34-0 as the hour mark ticked over.
Perenara featured in all three, sparking the first with a booming run down the left before offloading for Woodward to cross.
He made a telling break from some aimless Sharks kicking to set up the second for lock Vaea Fifita then scored the third himself, slicing through from an Uhila quick tap.
The Hurricanes were unrelenting during the closing 20 minutes, flanker Brad Shields diving over right on the final whistle to wrap up the win.
Boyd said the Hurricanes’ familiarity with the galeforce winds and sweeping rain had played a big part in the win.
“Our guys are used to playing in these conditions – you get the odd zephyr in Wellington, and we were able to adapt to conditions probably better than they were.”