The Crusaders held on to beat the Hurricanes 16-9 in Wellington to win the New Zealand Super Rugby Conference on Saturday.
Former Hurricanes center Robbie Fruean, now a key member of the Crusaders' backline, scored the only try of the match three minutes into the second half to establish a 13-6 lead after the teams had been level 6-6 at halftime.
The Hurricanes closed the gap to 13-9 and could have taken the lead but for a match-saving tackle by Crusaders fullback Tom Marshall midway through the second period.
Andy Ellis's audacious dropgoal gave the Crusaders a more comfortable victory margin.
Conditions were not conducive for running rugby and the both teams struggled to hold on to the ball in the wet.
The result moves the Crusaders into second place on the overall Super rugby standings but they can be overtaken by the Stormers who play the Cheetahs later today.
If the Stormers lose to the Cheetahs the Crusaders will get a bye next weekend as they will finish in second place and will host a home semi-final at Trafalgar Park in Nelson.
Although Saturday's match was played at Wellington and on the Hurricanes' home ground it was technically a home match for the Crusaders, who have been exiled from their stadium at Christchurch since the earthquake of Feb. 22.
The Crusaders have played home matches this season at five different venues, including Twickenham in London, and will return to the provincial city of Nelson for their semifinal.
Their achievement in reaching the playoffs in a season disrupted by the Christchurch earthquake and continuing aftershocks was remarkable.
The latest major quake - magnitude six, on Monday - further damaged the homes of Crusaders captain Kieran Read and All Blacks flyhalf Dan Carter, leaving those players and others with off-field distractions.
An ash cloud from an erupting Chilean volcano also disrupted the Crusaders' travel plans this week, forcing them to fly from Christchurch to Wellington aboard a 67-year-old Douglas DC3.
"Essentially it was the people back home that really motivated us tonight," Read said.
"We put it out there for them. We're happy to get the win tonight, we know there's a lot more to go but this one is for the people back home."
The Crusaders had to work hard for the win in a match played in wet and slippery conditions. T
The Hurricanes, whose season ended with this match, were determined to finish on a high note after a season of off-field controversy and on-field under-achievement.
The game was the last in Hurricanes colors for captain Andrew Hore and All Blacks center Ma'a Nonu, both sacked by new coach and former Crusaders assistant Mark Hammett.
Several more players, including front-rowers Neemia Tialata, John Schwalger and Anthony Perenise are also leaving to take up contracts overseas.
Hore and Nonu played superbly in one of the Hurricanes' best performances of the season to cast further doubt on the wisdom of Hammett's decision to cut them.
Neither wishes to leave, and the crowd showed its respect for Hore when he left the field in the 71st minute to a lengthy standing ovation.
"It's been a tough old season, really," Hore said.
"Obviously we didn't get off to a great start with a loss to the Highlanders and the tragedy down in Christchurch and we've sort of bumbled our way through the rest of the season.
"It's pretty sad. Obviously a few of us didn't want to leave on other people's terms and we have to so we've got to pick our lips up and move on."
Carter kicked two penalties from three attempts and Hurricanes flyhalf Aaron Cruden kicked two from two to create a 6-6 stalemate after a rugged first half.
Fruean's try three minutes into the second half, after winger Zac Guildford had run the ball back brilliantly from a missed touch-finder, split the teams and eventually decided the match.
Ellis's late dropgoal put the outcome beyond doubt.
Final Score Crusaders 16 Hurricanes 9
Tries - R Fruean
Pen - D Carter 2
Con - D Carter
Drop - A Ellis
Pen - A Cruden 3
Referee: Steve Walsh
Assistant referees: Vinny Munro, Shane McDermott
Television match official: Richard Kelly
Crusaders :1. Ben Franks . 2. Corey Flynn . 3. Owen Franks . 4. Brad Thorn . 5. Sam Whitelock . 6. George Whitelock . 7. Matt Todd . 8. Kieran Read (c) . 9. Andy Ellis . 10. Dan Carter . 11. Zac Guildford . 12. Ryan Crotty . 13. Robbie Fruean . 14. Brent Ward . 15. Tom Marshall
16. Quentin MacDonald . 17. Wyatt Crockett . 18. Luke Romano . 19. Jonathan Poff . 20. Willi Heinz . 21. Matt Berquist . 22. Tu Umaga-Marshall
Hurricanes:1. John Schwalger,2. Andrew Hore (c) ,3. Neemia Tialata,4. Jeremy Thrush,5. James Broadhurst,6. Faifili Levave,7. Jack Lam,8. Victor Vito,9. Piri Weepu,10. Aaron Cruden,11. Hosea Gear,12. Ma'a Nonu,13. Alapati Leiua,14. Julian Savea,15. Cory Jane
Reserves:16. Laurence Corlett,17. Anthony Perenise,18. Jason Eaton,19. Mark Reddish ,20. Chris Eaton,21. Jayden Hayward,22. Richard Buckman