Victor Vito got the fairytale finish to his Hurricanes career his teammates wanted for him, but the loose-forward admitted to some mixed emotions following the team’s Super Rugby title success.
A man-of-the-match display from first five-eighth Beauden Barrett, who scored the match-sealing try and added 10 points with the boot, coupled with a first-half try from winger Cory Jane, gave the Hurricanes a 20-3 win over the Lions in Wellington.
It was the perfect send-off for Vito, who will head to French club La Rochelle later this month.
“We’ll make sure we enjoy tonight (Saturday) … because these moments don’t come very often,” Vito said.
“I had a little bit of a sad moment to myself just thinking how awesome this crew is and how much I’m going to miss them.
“Some of them have just had their first campaign and they are getting a championship. But for guys like me I’ve seen the grind and the hurt we’ve had in the past as well.
“This team won’t play together again … so it’s pretty special.”
A genuine desire to work hard for each other and “be where your mate needs you to be” has been the hallmark of the Hurricanes this year and coach Chris Boyd believes that was a key factor in the team finally getting the monkey off their back after coming up short in 2006 and last year.
“If you put this team on paper it’s probably well short of the best Hurricanes team that there’s ever been,” he said.
“But as far as wanting to play for each other and being a team and getting all those things right I think it’s been absolutely outstanding.”
Boyd also paid tribute to Vito who put in another big shift against the big South African forwards in terrible conditions in the New Zealand capital.
“I don’t think I’ve seen him play that consistently well over the period of time he’s been here,” he said.
“Here’s been outstanding for us. “Victor is a special player. Like the guys who left last year he’ll be missed. But like when those guys left, we hope somebody else will put their hand up in their place.”