An ecstatic Hurricanes team held their nerve to just edge out the Crusaders in a topsy-turvy Super Rugby thriller at AMI Stadium tonight and stay in the hunt for the playoffs.
On a bitterly cold night in Christchurch, Beauden Barrett potted a 74th minute penalty to ease the Hurricanes to a 23-22 lead, which they hung on to, though even then it required Crusaders Tyler Bleyendaal to miss a last minute penalty from near the halfway line to secure the points.
It was a gutsy performance by the Hurricanes, who scored two tries to one, and led 17-16 at half time, but had to overcome their share of scrum and lineout woes in a tense contest.
They trailed by five points with 15 minutes to play, enjoyed just 44 per cent of possession, and even smaller amount of territory - but that proved to be enough.
Questions may now be asked about how much the Ireland series has affected the Crusaders, who were missing injured trio Dan Carter, Kieran Reid and Israel Dagg and looked nothing like the side that racked up 110 points thrashing the Highlanders and Blues before the break.
The Hurricanes struggled to deal with the Crusaders line speed early on and gave away two early penalties that Tom Taylor comfortably knocked over.
Barrett brought the Hurricanes back within three with a penalty before Andre Taylor - the Super 15 leading try scorer - turned provider as his scintillating break led to the opening try of the match.
Taylor put the hammer down after receiving an inside ball, breaking the line and offloading to Conrad Smith who touched down right in front for his first of the night.
Domination from the Crusaders tight five led to another penalty right in front and the Crusaders closed the gap to one point following another easy Taylor penalty.
The Hurricanes were struggling with simple set-plays, Dane Coles crooked lineout throws giving away critical possession on three occasions.
But just when it looked like the Hurricanes had the Crusaders on the back foot Zac Guilford scored the try of the match, breaking a Barrett tackle and using his electrifying pace to sprint 60 metres to the line.
Just as quickly Smith replied for the Hurricanes, throwing a slick dummy out wide to touch down for his second of the night and recapture a one-point halftime lead with a clinical wide conversion from Barrett.
The Crusaders charged out of the blocks in the second half, quickly regaining then extending the lead with two penalties.
It was a sloppy restart from the Hurricanes but they were somehow still in the game after a very poor twenty minutes, and Barrett kicked them back within two points with 15 to go.
The Hurricanes went ahead with six minutes to play, Barrett knocking over an easy penalty then fighting off a late Crusaders attack to seal the win.
The Hurricanes have a bye next, followed by a last round must win matchup with the league leading Chiefs.
Meanwhile the Crusaders travel to Hamilton next weekend and will be looking to secure a playoff berth before facing Western Force in their final match.By Steven Holloway @Shollow1 Email Steven