Peter Umaga-Jensen scored two first half tries as the Hurricanes beat the Chiefs 31-18 in the penultimate weekend of Super Rugby Aotearoa on Saturday and consigned the visitors to a ninth successive loss.
The Hurricanes kept alive their slim chances of winning the title with the bonus-point victory and moved to 21 competition points, three behind the table-topping Crusaders, who play the Highlanders on Sunday.
The Chiefs, who lost all eight of their games in the domestic competition, will now temporarily bid farewell to coach Warren Gatland, who takes a year’s absence so he can concentrate on the British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa next year.
Chiefs captain Sam Cane also sent a major scare through the All Blacks coaching setup, with Ian Foster and his assistant John Plumtree in the stands, when he slumped to the ground after attempting a tackle on Jordie Barrett.
Cane, who Foster has already named as his All Blacks captain, broke his neck in a test match against South Africa two years ago but after being checked by medical staff he was able to walk off the field unaided.
The Hurricanes, who had winger Kobus Van Wyk sin-binned late in the first half for dangerous play, dominated territory and possession and were clinical with their execution with Umaga-Jensen’s two tries giving them a 12-3 lead at halftime.
Chiefs winger Sean Wainui managed to reduce the deficit after the break before Hurricanes captain Dane Coles and then Van Wyk scored tries to give the home side a 24-13 lead.
Cane’s replacement Mitch Karpik dragged his side back into the game with a try and making the final 15 minutes a potentially tense affair for the home fans.
Hurricanes centre Billy Proctor, however, regained the bonus point for his side’s fifth try and left them with their title hopes still intact.