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Chiefs 10 Cruden forced to celebrate after brilliant Highlanders try

The Hurricanes had reason to celebrate the score too as it helped them top the NZ conference.

Pryor runs in a scintillating score in Dunedin.
Pryor runs in a scintillating score in Dunedin.
Image: Photosport/Dianne Manson/INPHO

THE HURRICANES ENDED up top of the New Zealand Super Rugby conference after a thriller in Dunedin where the Highlanders beat the Waikato Chiefs 25-15.

A yellow card proved costly for the Chiefs whose dynamic defence kept them narrowly in front until 13 minutes into the second half. Once reduced to 14 men, Ben Smith made the most of the extra space, playing his part in a Dan Pryor try full of scything lines and slick passing.

(Watch the full highlights below with that game-changing try at the 1.35 mark.)

Source: SANZAAR/YouTube

Chiefs out-half Aaron Cruden inadvertently found himself caught up in the Dunedin celebrations.

It ended a dramatic final round of the regular season for the top New Zealand sides where the Hurricanes started fourth and leap-frogged to the front with a vital bonus-point 35-10 hiding of the Canterbury Crusaders.

The Chiefs, who went into the weekend as the front-running New Zealand side, needed a win to reclaim the top spot while the Highlanders needed a bonus point victory.

The Highlanders’ victory came without the extra point consigning them, along with the Chiefs and Crusaders, to an overseas mission for their quarter-final matches next weekend.

The early match in Christchurch saw the home side stunned by Beauden Barrett’s ‘Canes after both sides were forced into late replacements.

The Crusaders lost Sam Whitelock and Andy Ellis during the warm-up, while the Hurricanes had to rush Jason Woodward onto the field at outside centre, replacing Ngani Laumape who was already an injury replacement for Matt Proctor.

Yet it was Woodward who scored the opening try, running off Barrett’s pass to finish off a sustained attack on the Crusaders line.

Source: SANZAAR/YouTube

A Richie Mo’unga penalty eventually put the home side on the board and he also converted a Ryan Crotty try for the Crusaders to lead 10-7.

But on the stroke of half-time, scrum-half TJ Perenara charged down a clearing kick by his opposite Mitchell Drummond to regain the lead for the Hurricanes.

The Hurricanes held a slender 14-10 at half-time and Halaholo, who has struggled for game time, proved the game-breaker 15 minutes into the second half.

In a rare opportunity as a starting player to replace the injured Vince Aso, Halaholo bumped off an ineffectual tackle attempt by Crotty to score under the posts.

Barrett landed the conversion to give the Hurricanes a 10-point buffer and they followed with tries to Gibbins.

That gave them the bonus-point three-try advantage before Barrett put the icing on the cake by intercepting a loose pass on the try-line just as the final hooter sounded.

The Wellington side are not yet assured of top place in the overall standings though, South African leaders the Lions can overtake them with a win away to the Jaguares tonight. Stormers host the Kings and the Cheetahs take on the Bulls this afternoon and will also impact the play-off standings.

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