WELLINGTON – Waikato Chiefs beat Wellington Hurricanes 28-26 in Hamilton on Friday but failed to dislodge their opponents from fourth place on the Super Rugby ladder to secure a home quarter-final next week.
The Chiefs needed to earn a bonus point and win by at least 23 points to overtake the Hurricanes, with an upset looking possible as they led 21-0 at half time.
But the Hurricanes fought back in an entertaining encounter, meaning they stay fourth and will host the Chiefs when the knockout rounds begin next week.
Both teams scored four tries apiece, with the Chiefs starting strongly then slowing after centre Jonathan Faauli was sent off in the second half.
“The last few weeks we've started really well and had a great first half but let them come back in the second,” said Chiefs captain Brodie Retallick. “That's something we'll need to look at next week in Wellington.”
Hurricanes skipper Beauden Barrett said he was pleased to retain home advantage, despite defeat in the final match of the regular season.
“Although we didn't win the game tonight we can take a bit of confidence knowing that when we roll up our sleeves and go to work we can apply a bit of pressure,” he said.
FULL TIME: We come away with the win 28-24 in the last round robin game of the season! We now look ahead to the Quarter Final next weekend facing the Hurricanes again in Wellington! Who's ready? #CHIvHUR pic.twitter.com/vlyxOijN6v
Retallick, back from a six-week injury layoff, opened the scoring for the Chiefs with a try in the seventh minute.
They had two more within 30 minutes after a Brad Weber intercept and a Solomon Alaimalo effort set up when Shaun Stevenson soccer kicked the ball along the sideline.
The shellshocked Hurricanes struggled with the Chiefs' swarming defence and let themselves down with handling errors when they did threaten.
Trailing 21-0, the Hurricanes blew a chance to get on the board early in the second half when Jordie Barrett missed a long-range penalty attempt.
Wes Goosen finally gave them a try in the 51st minute, opening up the game in a frantic 10 minute spell when the Chiefs almost had two tries and the Hurricanes one.
Wellington forward Blade Thomson scored out wide to narrow the gap to 21-14.
The Hurricanes then gained a one-man advantage after Faauli was red-carded for a head-high shoulder charge on Goosen.
Ben May made the most of the extra space to barge over the line for the Hurricanes third try but Mitch Karpik hit back immediately.
Julian Savea crossed for the Hurricanes as the full-time siren sounded but by then the Chiefs had already secured victory on the night and Wellington had done enough to retain their home final.
Agence France-Presse (AFP)