The Chiefs held on to the top spot in Super Rugby by holding off the Hurricanes to win 27-28 in Wellington.
The Chiefs remain on top of the New Zealand Conference and the Australasian Group as a result of the victory and now have an 11 point lead over the second placed Rebels.
Both teams scored four tries each in the match so neither earn the try bonus point under the new rules. The Hurricanes do however earn a losing bonus point.
The Chiefs finished the match with 14 players and with uncontested scrums due to a rule in which they effectively ran out of replacements.
The Hurricanes could have stolen the victory in the final minute as Beauden Barrett sliced through the Chiefs defence and passed to Jason Woodward who was unable to hold on to the ball with an open try line ahead of him.
Barrett had a shocker of a match with his kicking as he missed several penalty and conversion kicks and was eventually replaced as kicker by Woodward.
Woodward’s error highlighted the high error count which cost the Hurricanes dearly after they had controlled much of the game and a bloodied Chiefs captain Sam Cane acknowledged afterwards his side were lucky to get the win.
In a fast-paced, bruising battle both sides scored four tries with the precision kicking of Damian McKenzie, the competition’s leading points scorer, just keeping the Chiefs in front by landing all his shots at goal.
The Chiefs now have seven wins from eight games to remain the competition pacesetters, while the Hurricanes have five from eight and stay third in the New Zealand conference behind the Chiefs and Canterbury Crusaders.
The Hurricanes led 15-14 at half-time but the game turned soon after the resumption when the Chiefs were able to open up an eight point margin before the ‘Canes came back in the closing stages.
“We just managed to hang in there in the end,” admitted Chiefs coach Dave Rennie said.
The pre-match script focussed on rival fly-halves Barrett and Aaron Cruden, battling to succeed Dan Carter as the All Blacks playmaker.
But they provided little new information in that both are sublime attackers while Barrett is unreliable as a goalkicker and Cruden has defensive frailties. Cruden also does not kick and allows McKenzie to take penalty and conversion kicks.
Chiefs’ fullback McKenzie, however, stood out with his speed and vision with his counter-attacking skills central in the Chiefs two second half tries.
Unlike Barrett, who did not help the Hurricanes’ cause by missing two conversions and two penalties, McKenzie judged the blustery conditions to perfection.
Cory Jane and Dane Coles scored for the Hurricanes in the first half while Barrett kicked on conversion and a drop goal.
For the Chiefs, Seta Tamanivalu scored twice, the second from a spectacular dive over Toni Pulu who was just able to offload as he was brought down two metres from the line after an 80 metre move.
Michael Leitch completed a frantic four-minute opening to the second half with a try to regain the lead for the Chiefs.
After a TJ Perenara try put the ‘Canes one point behind at 20-21, McKenzie ignited a Chiefs charge which ended with a try to Taleni Seu to stretch their lead to 28-20.
When Barrett scored for the ‘Canes in the 68th minute with Woodward taking over the kicking duties and the gap was again closed to one point, but although the Hurricanes controlled the closing stages they were unable to score again.
Next week the Hurricanes host Australia’s Brumbies at Invercargill while the Chiefs host South Africa’s Sharks in New Plymouth.
Final Score Hurricanes 27 (15) Chiefs 28 (14)
Tries – C.Jane, D.Coles, TJ.Perenara, B.Barrett
Con -B.Barrett, J.Woodward
Drop – B.Barrett
Tries – S.Tamanivalu 2, M.Leitch, T.Seu
Con – D.McKenzie 4
Referee: Craig Joubert
Assistant Ref 1:Nick Briant
Assistant Ref 2:Brendon Pickerill
TMO : Glenn Newman
15 Jason Woodward , 14 Cory Jane , 13 Matt Proctor , 12 Vince Aso , 11 Julian Savea , 10 Beauden Barrett , 9 TJ Perenara (vc) , 8 Victor Vito , 7 Ardie Savea , 6 Brad Shields , 5 Michael Fatialofa , 4 Blade Thomson , 3 Jeff Toomaga-Allen , 2 Dane Coles (c) , 1 Reggie Goodes
Replacements: Motu Matu’u, Chris Eves, Loni Uhila, Vaea Fifita, Callum Gibbins, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, James Marshall, Willis Halaholo.
1. Mitchell Graham , 2. Rhys Marshall , 3. Atu Moli, 4. Michael Allardice , 5. Brodie Retallick , 6. Tom Sanders, 7. Sam Cane (CC), 8. Michael Leitch , 9. Brad Weber , 10. Aaron Cruden (CC), 11. Sam McNicol , 12. Andrew Horrell , 13. Seta Tamanivalu, 14. Toni Pulu , 15. Damian McKenzie
Replacements : 16. Hika Elliot , 17. Siate Tokolahi , 18. Siegfried Fisi’ihoi , 19. Taleni Seu , 20. Maama Vaipulu , 21. Tawera Kerr-Barlow , 22. Stephen Donald, 23. Glen Fisiiahi