The Chiefs qualified for the Super Rugby play offs and went to the top of the standings when they beat the Hurricanes 34-22 with a bonus point.
The Chiefs could still be overtaken by the Crusaders in the New Zealand Conference but they would need three bonus point victories and to make up for the points differential.
The Chiefs outscored the Hurricanes by four tries to three but the 2012 Super Rugby champions only really managed to pull away from the Hurricanes in the final quarter.
The Chiefs four tries were scored by No 8 Matt Vant Leven, centre Bundee Aki, scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow and prop Ben Tameifuna. All Black flyhalf kicked four conversions and two penalties.
The Hurricanes tries were scored by TJ Perenara, flyhalf Beauden Barrett and replacement back Alapati Leiua. Barrett also kicked two conversions and a penalty.
The victory is the Chiefs 11th win from 14 matches to move two points ahead of the Brumbies, who will be inactive for two more weeks while Australian teams pause for the tour by the British and Irish Lions.
Friday’s match featured a brilliant contest of skills between All Blacks flyhalves Aaron Cruden, for the Chiefs, and Beauden Barrett, for the Hurricanes.
Both ran strongly at the defensive line, broke or eluded tackles, kicked well and picked up runners with deft passes while also working effectively in defense.
The more senior Cruden probably emerged with the best of a compelling duel, making telling breaks at key stages and featuring in two of the Chiefs’ four tries. He kicked accurately to keep the ball ahead of his forwards and converted all of his teams tries, adding two penalties to finish with 14 points.
Barrett scored one of the Hurricanes’ three tries and also showed his ability to generate attack but he succeeded with only three of five attempts at goal, missing a vital penalty immediately after halftime which would have given the Hurricanes an 18-17 lead.
The Chiefs took a 17-15 lead to halftime and won for the 11th time in as many matches this season after leading at the break.
After Barrett’s miss, Cruden kicked a goal which gave the Chiefs the breathing space of a five-point lead and they finished confidently, helped by a scrum which became more dominant as the match progressed.
The Hurricanes’ defeat, their eighth in 14 games, finally snuffed out any hope they may have had of reaching the playoffs this season, leaving only the Chiefs and Christchurch-based Crusaders as New Zealand playoffs contenders.
The Hurricanes led only once in the match, from the 14th to 17th minutes after a try to scrumhalf T.J. Perenara.
Cruden gave the Chiefs an early lead with a penalty but Perenara’s try, after a superb cross-field kick by Barrett which was fielded on the touchline by lock Jeremy Thrush, put the Hurricanes ahead 7-3.
The Chiefs immediately reclaimed the lead with a try to backrower Matt Vant Leven after winger Asaeli Tikoirotuma stole the Hurricanes’ kickoff.
Center Bundee Aki scored off a chip through by Cruden, then Barrett hit back with a try in tit-for-tat scoring which left only two points between the teams at halftime.
Tries to scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow and replacement prop Ben Tameifuna in the second half sealed a bonus point for the Chiefs and made their qualification for the playoffs certain.
The Hurricanes scored the last of the match’s seven tries through new Samoa international Alapati Leiua.
Final Score Chiefs 34 (17) Hurricanes 22 (15)
Saturday June 29
Sunday June 30
Saturday June 29