Hurricanes snatch late win
The Hurricanes kept their play-off chances alive with a dramatic 28-25 victory over the Chiefs.
The visitors had looked on course for victory after leading 25-21 until the dying minutes of the match at Westpac Stadium in Wellington. But the Hurricanes never gave up and hammered away at the Chiefs' line well after the 80-minute mark, and were rewarded by television match official Mike Fraser who ruled Dane Coles had grounded the ball for a late five-pointer.
The result leaves the Chiefs, who scored tries through Aaron Cruden, Ben Tameifuna and Tawera Kerr-Barlow, waiting on the outcome of the Stormers' match to see if they will finish top of the Super Rugby ladder and gain home advantage in the finals. The Hurricanes, for whom Julian Savea crossed twice, now need other results to go their way to claim a place in the top six.
An intercept try to Cruden edged the New Zealand Conference winners ahead in the 58th minute and they thought they had done enough until Coles' heroics at the death. It was a difficult night for the kickers in the swirling wind with Beauden Barrett managing to slot just five of his nine kicks and Cruden landing just four of his seven attempts.
In an exciting end-to-end encounter the Chiefs drew first blood when Kerr-Barlow dotted down with just three minutes on the clock. Cory Jane conceded a penalty for being in front of the kicker and from the resulting line-out the Chiefs made metres with a series of pick-and-drives before Kerr-Barlow burst through a gap to score.
The Hurricanes responded with a Barrett penalty before they produced one of the tries of the season. Tim Bateman, Conrad Smith and Barrett all slipped tackles before Smith was eventually hauled down 10 metres out. The ball was shifted out to Jane who was surrounded by Chiefs defenders, so the Hurricanes swung it left and Savea finished off in the left-hand corner.
The Hurricanes lost Jack Lam to a shoulder injury in the 16th minute but his replacement Brad Shields filled the void well and it was his turnover steal that resulted in a second try for Savea. Barrett's conversion extended the home side's lead to 15-7.
Referee Jonathan Kaplan was involved in a moment of controversy when he sin-binned Hurricanes prop Ben May in the 28th minute for a tip-tackle on Sonny Bill Williams even though the soon-to-depart Chiefs inside centre did not go above the horizontal. And the Chiefs profited when Tameifuna burrowed over from close range just two minutes before the break to level the scores.
A penalty on the stroke of half-time restored the Hurricanes' lead. The Chiefs snatched the advantage back in the 58th minute when Cruden claimed a simple converted intercept try under the posts when he snaffled Barrett's intended inside pass to Savea off a Hurricanes scrum move.
Barrett kicked another penalty to close the gap before Coles sealed the dramatic win with a match-winning try, which was converted.