While a double yellow card isn’t unheard of in top-level professional rugby encounters, normally the dual sin-binning is a result of a fairly comprehensive stoush between two players. That wasn’t exactly the case in Friday night’s Super Rugby Aotearoa bout between the Hurricanes and Highlanders, however.

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With both sides having somewhat disappointing seasons to date and playing for nothing but pride after the competitors for the tournament final were decided in last weekend’s matches, it’s no surprise that tempers were flaring early in the match.

Things started boiling over in the 8th minute when an attempted pass from Highlanders No 10 Mitch Hunt eventually found its way into Hurricanes captain Dane Coles’ arms and the hooker quickly punted the ball off downfield. Hunt made a nuisance of himself as Coles tried to chase the kick and the Hurricane threw his opposition to the ground.

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Both players eventually got to their feet and continued with the game but evidently held a grudge, because the stoush resumed just 10 minutes later when Hunt hit centre Billy Proctor with a high shot. In the ensuing ruck, Coles cleared Hunt out and shoved him to the ground before pressing the side of his elbow into the first five’s face.

Hunt wasn’t happy with the contact and once both players were back on their feet, shoved Coles in the face.

Referee Ben O’Keeffe quickly blew a stop to play and referred the decision upstairs, with the refereeing team collectively deciding that both players needed to spend some time on the sidelines.

Both Hunt and Coles were incredulous with the decision, with Coles suggesting that the pair were “just having a bit of fun” – but O’Keeffe had no qualms sending the pair to the sin bin.

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It appeared that no one on social media was happy, with some suggesting that neither player deserved a card, some suggesting it was a classic Dane Coles “grub” move, and some questioning how the hooker didn’t receive a harsher penalty.

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Come half time, Dane Coles had the last laugh upon the pair’s return to the field.

The Highlanders used their captain’s referral late in the half, claiming that Coles had intentionally stepped on Highlanders flanker Billy Harmon’s face. The Highlanders ended up penalised for the incident, however, with Harmon tripping up Coles after the supposed stamp – which was ruled accidental.

From the ensuing lineout, Coles crashed over for the score and moments later, Jordie Barrett added a simple penalty.

The teams entered the sheds with the visiting Highlanders up 17-15.

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