Win not enough for Crusaders
The Crusaders have come up short in trying to secure the New Zealand Conference despite defeating the Hurricanes 25-17 in Christchurch on Friday evening.
They needed to regain possession from the ensuing kickoff, but the Hurricanes were instead the receivers and held on to deny the Crusaders top spot in the New Zealand Conference.
The seven-time champions lie in fourth place overall on 60 points and now have the opportunity to sit back and analyse their yet-to-be determined opponents in the first round of the playoffs.
They were made to work hard against a defensively sound Hurricanes outfit were a shadow of the side that leaked 49 points against the Highlanders a week earlier.
The visitors were passionate and committed, with prop Ben Franks leading the way on defence.
Their resilience and an increasing drizzle forced Carter to take any available points on offer. He kicked a conversion and two penalties to give his side a 13-5 lead at half-time.
The rain departed in the second half and the quality returned almost immediately as the Hurricanes went about clawing their way back into the match.
A try to Brad Shields helped reduce the deficit before a try to halfback Andy Ellis gave the defending champions the impetus to go on and score more points.
If the Hurricanes' defensive resolve was what helped them stay in the match it was their attacking prowess that saw them look to steal a win.
The Hurricanes got the match back to 17-18 with a quarter of the game to go courtesy of a Julian Savea try, but a late try to Tom Marshall put paid to the Wellington franchise efforts as they finished, almost unfairly, without a competition point from the encounter.
Crusaders 25 (Zac Guildford, Andrew Ellis, Tom Marshall tries; Dan Carter 2 con, 2 pen) Hurricanes 17 (Brad Shields, Victor Vito, Julian Savea tries; Andre Taylor con) HT: 10-5