The Hurricanes’ big men came to the rescue in a 37-27 win over the Blues in Wellington which keeps them in the hunt for Super Rugby’s top qualifying spot.
All four of the home side’s tries went to tight forwards, including a second-half double to lock Vaea Fifita as they ended any realistic play-offs hopes the Blues may have harboured.
Leading by 10 points early in the second half, the Blues fell away to suffer their sixth loss of the season, leaving them needing a miracle over the last two rounds to snaffle a play-off wildcard.
The Hurricanes are almost guaranteed of play-off rugby after notching a ninth win but they will have top spot on their mind.
They are two points behind the competition-leading Chiefs and one shy of the second-placed Crusaders.
Last year’s top qualifiers emerged victorious in a game brimming with clean line breaks, with disgruntled coach Chris Boyd comparing it to a game of touch rugby at halftime as they trailed 24-17.
They were more controlled in the second spell and, with five-eighth Beauden Barrett slotting seven-from-seven shots in a 17-point haul, they held on for a fourth successive defeat of their northern rivals.
The win may have come at a heavy cost, with one-Test Hurricanes prop Jeff Toomaga-Allen forced off early with a suspected broken forearm, which would end his season.
After an early exchange of penalties, the game exploded to life with five tries in the space of 13 minutes.
They came in alternate order, with Blues loose forwards Jerome Kaino (two) and Kara Pryor crossing, along with Hurricanes front-rowers Reggie Goodes and Dane Coles.
The game settled into a scoreless 20 minutes, broken by a penalty to inside centre Piers Francis to put the Blues 27-17 ahead before Barrett slotted successive three-pointers.
Fifita powered onto a delicate short pass from halfback TJ Perenara to bag his maiden Super Rugby try and put the Hurricanes ahead for the first time.
The athletic lock doubled that tally near the end as his team took advantage of a fading Blues defensive line.
It was possibly the last home game of the year for the Hurricanes, who complete the regular season away to the Waratahs and Crusaders.