Over his long and illustrious career, Hurricanes hooker Dane Coles has acquired a reputation for his niggly onfield tactics and that talent was on full display, as he inspired his team to victory over the Crusaders in his Wellington farewell.
After 14 years and 139 games, the prickly No.2 will not return for another Super Rugby season, making the regular season finale even more poignant for him, his team, his family, his fans - and his opponents.
Coles, 36, responded by delivering a virtuoso performance that inspired a second-half comeback and included a heated reunion with All Blacks teammate Codie Taylor.
The pair came together soon after halftime, after Coles won a ruck penalty in the Crusaders 22 and delighted in letting his latest victim know about it. Taylor took exception and confronted his counterpart, nose to nose.
After defusing the situation, referee Brendon Pickerill had to intervene again moments later, when Taylor tried to delay a quick tap penalty by batting the ball away, drawing a yellow card - and another serve from his tormentor.
"He'll get a sendoff from his old mate," said veteran commentator Grant Nesbitt in Sky Sport coverage. "Sure enough, he does."
The incident turned the tide of the game, with the Hurricanes scoring the next 19 points to eventually prevail 27-26.
"We've got a lot of respect for each other," said Coles of fellow Horowhenua product Taylor. "It's Hurricanes v Crusaders, so we're not holding back.
"He was sticking up for his teammate, I was sticking up for myself. It's a bit banter and I was surprised - he's usually pretty calm.
"I love Codie, he's a good man."
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson could only shake his head and chuckle at the fiery exchange.
"We knew it was coming, we talked about... even Codie talked about it," said Robertson. "He knew and he got done, he got baited... took a big bite, didn't he?
"When he [Coles] was talking to the ref, it was a masterclass. It was a great way for him to go out here, wasn't it?"
The Hurricanes travel to Canberra for a quarter-final against the Brumbies and would need a combination of playoff upsets, if they hope to return home for semis or final.
If this contest proves to be Coles' Wellington swansong, he would be content with that memory.
"At least I can say we beat the Crusaders at home."
Join Newshub next weekend for live updates of the Super Rugby Pacific quarter-finals2023-06-03T18:05:09Z dg43tfdfdgfd