The Crusaders edged the Hurricanes 30-26 in a thrilling Super Rugby semi-final at AMI Stadium, Christchurch.
The Crusaders will host the Jaguares in another Super Rugby final next weekend after winning a classic New Zealand derby.
The nine-times champions dominated the first half, but the Hurricanes fought back, outscoring their hosts three tries to two in the second stanza.
It was not enough, however.
The men in yellow never led in the game, clawing back a 13-point deficit to one point on three occasions, but never finding that killer blow to win this tight affair.
Sevu Reece and Ngani Laumape both registered braces for their teams in a see-sawing contest in the Land of the Long White Cloud.
Richie Mo’unga scored 20 points, including a second-half try as the first-five eight kept his team ahead of the opposition.
Reece dotted down for the home team while Laumape’s brace, either side of Ben Lam’s try, kept the Hurricanes within touching distance.
The winger’s second score before the final quarter kept the home side ahead.
TJ Perenar’s try brought the Canes back to within a point for the third time with less than 17 minutes to play.
But Mo’unga’s late penalty, gave his side some breathing space as they closed out the win.
The Crusaders will meet the Jaguares in next weekend’s showpiece event in Christchurch.
The South Americans beat the Brumbies 39-7 in the first semi-final in Buenos Aires.
Victory is the Crusaders‘ 23rd playoff win at home, keeping their 100% unbeaten record in Christchurch as they withstood a conservative Hurricanes.
Scott Robertson’s charges also extend their unbeaten home record in Super Rugby, which dates back to 2016 when the Hurricanes beat them in their house.
The Saders have the wood on the Canes, winning five on the bounce and increasing their unbeaten home run to 30 games since the previous loss, three years ago.
The Crusaders took a 10-nil lead in the opening quarter of an hour through Reece and Mo’unga’s metronomic boot.
Super Rugby Semi-Final Video Highlights: Crusaders versus Hurricanes, AMI Stadium, Christchurch
The Hurricanes were guilty of kicking away too much possession in the opening quarter.
George Bridge and David Havili cleaned up everything, while the Hurricanes outside backs hardly touched the ball except to kick.
The Crusaders only made 12 tackles to 47 inside half-an-hour, and they spent more than three minutes inside the Hurricanes’ 22, while the away side only visited the Saders’ 22 for 38 seconds on two attempts.
Bridge, winning another aerial contest set up Reece’s 14th Super Rugby try of the season after the winger gathered Ryan Crotty’s raking cross-kick to dot down in the corner.
Richie Mo’unga opened the scoring with an early penalty before Reece’s 13th-minute try.
Beauden Barrett hit the post with a long-range penalty attempt as his team searched for some possession and points.
The kicking was poor, Bridge and Havili had space and time to launch counter-attacks from deep.
John Plumtree’s tactics baffled, but his men stuck to the plan even though it almost cost them as they were camped inside their 22.
Sam Whitelock knocked on near the goal-line after eschewing the three points for Salesi Rayasi being offside.
The defending champions dominated on the ground.
They won another penalty at the breakdown and decided to take the points with less than six minutes to play in the half.
Mo’unga made no mistake from in front to extend his side’s advantage to 13, but the Hurricanes found a spark before the break to keep themselves in the game.
Hurricanes strike either side of the interval
Jordie Barrett’s touchline break set-up Laumape’s 12th Super Rugby try of the campaign on the stroke of halftime.
Whatever Plumtree said to his team, it worked because they came out of the shed with intent.
Beauden Barrett put Matt Proctor through a hole with a deft pass from a lineout.
Proctor raced into the 22; the ball was recycled quickly to Perenara.
The blind-side break by the scrumhalf sent Lam away in the corner after a sublime offload.
The game opened up and was end-to-end as the teams traded tries
The Crusaders kept the Hurricanes at bay, never letting them get in front; landing counter-punch after every punch.
Mo’unga finished off a minute later; his chip-kick confused with the opposition’s back three.
James Marshall and Proctor let the ball bounce into space behind the yellow wall.
Reece pounced, raced into the 22 before sending his flyhalf away under the posts.
The try was a sucker-punch the visitors could not overcome as they found themselves two scores behind when they could have had a one-point lead.
Somehow, despite all the handling errors, the Hurricanes struck again.
Laumape used his chest to knock the bouncing ball forward past a cover-defender before collecting to score.
The referee called the TMO to check for a knock on, but the replay showed Laumape’s football skills were legitimate.
Beuaden Barrett’s conversion made it 20-19 with 28 minutes to play.
Reece and Perenara traded five-pointers before Mo’unga’s 73rd-minute penalty increased his side’s slim lead to four.
Perenara’s try came from a mistake at the restart by the Crusaders, and a barnstorming run by skipper Dane Coles before the scrumhalf’s audacious dummy saw him dart over.
Reece’s try, a few minutes earlier, came after some beautiful interplay on halfway between the forwards and backs.
Mo’unga’s third penalty took time off the clock as the Saders closed out the game.
Final Score: Crusaders 30 (13) Hurricanes 26 (7)
Tries – Reece (2), Mo’unga
Pen – Mo’unga (3)
Con – Mo’unga (3)
Tries – Laumape (2), Lam, Perenara
Con – B. Barrett (3)
Referee: Nic Berry
Assistant Ref 1: Jaco Peyper
Assistant Ref 2: Paul Williams
TMO: Ben Skeen
15 David Havili, 14 Reece, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 5 Sam Whitelock (captain), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 George Bower, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Braydon Ennor
15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Salesi Rayasi, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Jeff To’omaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles (captain), 1 Toby Smith
Replacements: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Xavier Numia, 18 Ben May, 19 Kane Le’aupepe, 20 Vaea Fifita, 21 Richard Judd, 22 James Marshall, 23 Peter Umaga-Jensen