Hurricanes stun Chiefs at last gasp
Sportal.co.nz 13 Jul 2012 Getty Images
But as they have all season, the Hurricanes never gave up, and hammered away at the Chiefs line well after the 80-minute mark and were rewarded by television match official Mike Fraser who ruled Dane Coles had grounded the ball to the dismay of the visitors.
The result leaves the Chiefs waiting on the outcome of the Stormers match to see whether they will finish top of the Super Rugby ladder and gain home advantage in the finals.
The Hurricanes now need other results to go their way to claim a place in the top six.
The home side led 18-15 at half-time at Westpac Stadium after a thrilling first half that produced two tries for Hurricanes winger Julian Savea and one apiece for the visiting Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Ben Tameifuna, plus a controversial sin-binning of Hurricanes prop Ben May.
An intercept try to Aaron Cruden edged the New Zealand conference winners in front in the 58th minute and they thought they had done enough until Coles' heroics at the death.
It was a difficult night for the kickers in the swirling wind with Beauden Barrett managing to slot just five of his nine kicks and Aaron Cruden landing just four from his seven attempts.
In an exciting end-to-end encounter the Chiefs drew first blood when Tawera Kerr-Barlow dotted down with just three minutes on the clock.
Cory Jane conceded a penalty for being in front of the kicker and from the resulting line-out the Chiefs made metres with a series of pick and drives before Kerr-Barlow burst through a gap to score. But there was a hint of controversy about the try as referee Jonathan Kaplan appeared to impede Chris Eaton's attempt to stop the Chiefs halfback.
The Hurricanes responded with a Barrett penalty before they produced one of the tries of the season from turnover ball.
Tim Bateman, Conrad Smith, Barrett all slipped tackles before Smith was eventually hauled down 10 metres out. The ball was shifted out to Jane who was enveloped by Chiefs defenders, so the Hurricanes swung it left and Savea finished off in the left-hand corner.
The Hurricanes lost Jack Lam to a shoulder injury in the 16th minute but his replacement Brad Shields filled the void well and it was his turnover steal that resulted in a second try for Savea.
Barrett, who rarely put boot to ball all game, again found a gap, spun out of the tackle of Sonny Bill Williams. Faifili Levave and Jeremy Thrush were both stopped short of the line before Savea picked the ball up from the back of the ruck and powered his way over. Barrett's conversion extended the home side's lead to 15-7.
Kaplan was involved in another moment on controversy when he sin-binned Ben May in the 28th minute for a tip-tackle on Sonny Bill Williams even though the soon-to-depart Chiefs second five-eighth did not go above the horizontal.
And the Chiefs profited from the man advantage when prop Ben Tameifuna burrowed over from close range just two minutes before the break to level the scores.
A penalty on the stroke of half-time restored the Hurricanes' lead.
The Chiefs snatched the lead back in the 58th minute when Cruden claimed a simple converted intercept try under the posts when he snaffled Barrett's intended inside pass to Savea off a Hurricanes scrum move.
The Hurricanes were then forced to switch hooker Coles to No.8 when Shields was helped off the field after injuring his knee.
The game lost some of its shape as both coaches turned to their benches. Barrett kicked another penalty to close the gap to four points before Coles sealed the dramatic match-winning try.
Scorers: Hurricanes 28 (Julian Savea 2, Dane Coles tries; Beauden Barrett 2 con, 3 pen) Chiefs 25 (Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Ben Tameifuna, Aaron Cruden tries; Cruden 2 con, 2 pen). HT: 18-15
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