The Hurricanes are still alive in Super Rugby Aotearoa after a 31-18 bonus point win over the Chiefs, who lost All Blacks captain Sam Cane to a vicious first half knockout.
Cane managed to walk from the field after being knocked out trying to tackle Jordie Barrett in the first half at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium.
Centre Peter Umaga-Jensen scored two tries as the Hurricanes took a five-tries-to-two win over the Chiefs.
The Crusaders will clinch the crown with one round remaining if they beat the Dunedin-based Highlanders tomorrow.
The Crusaders lead by two points from the Blues, and by three points from the Hurricanes. A win over the Highlanders would put them six clear of the Blues, who they play next weekend, and out of the range of the Hurricanes, who end their season next weekend against the Highlanders.
There is no finals series.
The Crusaders are chasing a fourth Super Rugby title in as many years. They won the five-nation tournament three years in a row and were on target for a fourth when it was suspended in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. New Zealand created Super Rugby Aotearoa as a substitute domestic tournament when cross-border matches became impossible.
Saturday’s win was the fifth in a row for the Hurricanes who beat the Crusaders three weeks ago, inflicting their first home defeat in four years. The Chiefs ended their first season under British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland with eight straight losses.
“We gave ourselves an opportunity tonight to stay in the fight,” Hurricanes captain T.J. Perenara said. “We knew we had to come into this game and get five points from it.
“Our fate now remains with the Highlanders and the Blues next week, if we can get the job done again next week, but we did our bit and gave ourselves an opportunity.”
Umaga-Jensen scored in the seventh and 27th minutes to help the Hurricanes into a 12-3 lead at halftime.
Hurricanes winger Cobus van Wyk was sin-binned in the 38th and the Chiefs took advantage with a try from Sean Wainui just after halftime. But the Hurricanes replied through hooker Dane Coles while still down to 14 men and led 17-10 after 50 minutes.
Van Wyk claimed a superb try from a set play in the 56th minute but the Chiefs again threatened to deprive the Hurricanes of a bonus point with a try by flanker Mitch Karpik.
The Hurricanes regained a three-try advantage with a touchdown from replacement Billy Proctor in the 73rd minute.
AP contributed to this report.