The Hurricanes booked their place in the Super Rugby semi-finals after beating the Chiefs 32-31 at Westpac Stadium, Wellington.
An inspired TJ Perenara grabbed a brace and Ben Lam equalled the tournament try-scoring record with his 15th five-pointer of the season, as the home team powered to victory.
The scoreboard does not tell the entire story of this intense New Zealand derby.
The Chiefs, who had the better of territory and possession for an hour, scored twice in the last two minutes to make the game look closer than it really was.
Julian Savea also scored the 49th try of his Canes career, giving himself a shot at the half-century next weekend.
The Chiefs controlled much of the game but could not keep up with their hosts, although they fought hard to level three times before the Hurricanes blew them away in the last half-hour.
The Hurricanes led 17-10 at the break – despite only having 33 percent possession and 31 percent territory – after tries from Julian Savea and TJ Perenara, cancelled out Brad Weber’s score.
Anton Lienert-Brown’s 51st-minute try levelled proceedings, but Perenara and Lam’s double-blow inside six minutes, effectively killed any hope of an unlikely away win for the visitors.
Jordie Barrett’s touchline conversion proved pivotal because of Damian McKenzie and Lachlan Boshier’s late tries meant the two teams were separated by a single point.
The Hurricanes had won nine of their previous 10 matches against fellow Kiwi opposition at home – 21 of 22 in total – and nine on the bounce at the Cake Tin, hinting at the task at hand for the visitors.
They came out firing when Savea plucked Damian McKenzie’s floated pass and ran 50 metres to score inside 60 seconds.
The “Bus” almost had a second two minutes’ later after intercepting a sceptical pass inside his 22.
However, this time he could not make the whitewash.
He managed to get 10 metres out before being hauled down by Lienert-Brown and Shaun Stevenson.
It was an ominous start to such an important match, but the Chiefs struck the next blow.
Beauden Barrett went for an intercept, but could not reach the ball.
Nathan Harris, the hooker, sold a fake, drew a defender and offloaded to Stevenson on the sideline.
Weber, in support, gathered and ran in untouched.
Beauden Barrett and Damian McKenzie traded penalties to make things level at 10 apiece after 22 minutes.
Despite the tied scores, it was the Waikato men who were dominating the statistics.
They were, however, profligate with their scoring opportunities, giving their opponents a chance to stay in the contest.
Too many passes went astray and too many times they were penalised in good field position after rumbling the Hurricanes for multiple series of phases.
Instead, it was the Wellington side who crossed the whitewash next.
Perenara broke to the lefthand side after a 5m scrum under the posts
He was tackled short by Damian McKenzie and Boshier.
The scrumhalf looked to have lost the ball forward in the act of grounding, but the TMO said it “was not clear and obvious” that the ball was lost forward, thus allowing referee Glen Jacksonson to award the try.
Chiefs hit back early after the break.
There was a strong breeze swirling around the Cake Tin causing all manner of problems for both teams.
The hosts were playing into the wind, and it was mother nature who set-up the Chiefs’ second try.
Lienert-Brown finished off an opportunistic attack after Damian McKenzie’s kick was held up in the breeze.
Boshier gathered the ball after it bounced kindly for him.
The big lock-forward raced his way into the 22, the ball was recycled quickly and flung wide by his first-five eight to the centre for the score.
Again McKenzie levelled.
Beauden Barrett kicked his second penalty of the game to put his team in front for the fourth time.
It was a lead that Chris Boyd’s chargers would not surrender.
Boyd’s men dug deep and went up a level in intensity, causing the Chiefs to make mistakes which the hosts capitalised.
The yellow tide started to engulf the Hamilton wall, breaking it down incrementally.
Perenara crossed on 62 minutes to give his side an eight-point cushion after Beauden Barrett’s conversion rebounded off the post.
It came from a big scrum by the Canes forwards which allowed the scrumhalf to break, beat his opposite number, and collect his 48th Super Rugby five-pointer.
Soon after, Lam collected Jordie Barrett’s pass and was over in the corner, beating Damian McKenzie’s tackle for his record-equalling try: the big man always beats the little man.
Jordie Barrett slotted the touchline kick which meant the Chiefs had to score three times in less than 10 minutes to reach the semi-finals.
It was something they could not do, despite the two-try denouement.
Final score: Hurricanes 32 (17) Chiefs 31 (10)
Tries – J. Savea, Perenara (2), Lam
Pen – B. Barrett (2)
Con – B. Barrett (2), J. Barrett
Tries – Weber, Lienert-Brown, D. McKenzie, Boshier
Pen – D. McKenzie
Con – D. McKenzie (3), Ngatai
Referee: Referee Glen Jackson
Assistant Ref 1: Nick Briant
Assistant Ref 2: Paul Williams
TMO: Glenn Newman
Hurricanes: 15 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 14 Julian Savea, 13 Jordie Barrett, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Thomas Perenara, 8 Blade Thomson, 7 Gareth Evans, 6 Brad Shields (captain), 5 Sam Lousi, 4 Michael Fatialofa, 3 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 James O’Reilly, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Ben May, 19 Vaea Fifita, 20 Reed Prinsep, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Wes Goosen.
Chiefs: 15 Solomon Alaimalo, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Shaun Stevenson, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Lachlan Boshier, 5 Michael Allardice, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Replacement: 16 Liam Polwart, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Jeff Thwaites, 19 Jesse Parete, 20 Mitch Karpik, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Marty McKenzie, 23 Alex Nankivell.