Mark Chisholm scored late in injury time to give the ACT Brumbies a 29-10 win over Otago and a four-try bonus point yesterday which kept alive their hopes of a place in the Super 14 semi-finals.
The Brumbies needed five points from the match to remain in playoffs contention and had three tries by halftime -- through Stirling Mortlock, Julian Huxley and Adam Ashley-Cooper -- but took 44 minutes in the second half to score the fourth and crucial try.
South African referee Craig Joubert allowed play to continue for more than four minutes after the final hooter, through several advantages to the Brumbies, before Australia lock Chisholm finally burst a tiring Highlanders defense.
Flyhalf Stephen Larkham added the conversion in what is expected to be his last match for the Brumbies.
Barring an improbable upset in an overnight match, the win marked the final Super 14 appearances of a number of Brumbies players -- Larkham, Jeremy Paul and George Gregan. All Blacks front rowers Clark Dermody, Anton Oliver and Carl Hayman played their last matches for the Highlanders.
Gregan limped off at halftime with a twisted ankle, prematurely ending his 126th and final Super 14 appearance.
Oliver spent 10 minutes of the second half in the sin bin for a professional foul but returned to see out his final match for the Highlanders in a career which began in the first match of the Super 12 tournament in 1996.
The win, and the vital bonus point, lifted the Brumbies into a tenuous fourth place on the championship ladder, displacing the Waikato Chiefs from the playoffs by pushing them back to fifth place.
The Brumbies, in turn, could lose their playoff spot if South Africa's Bulls beat the last-place Queensland Reds late last night.
NSW 38, Hurricanes 14
Australia international Lote Tuqiri scored his first try in Super 14 rugby in 12 months to help the New South Wales Waratahs to a 38-14 win over the Wellington Hurricanes on yesterday.
Tuqiri's try in the 46th minute was his first in a Super 14 match since May 4 last year and his first in any rugby since August, breaking an embarrassing drought for the Australian Rugby Union's high-profile signing.
He saluted the crowd and was mobbed by his teammates when he touched down under the posts, emphasizing the significance of the moment for a player whose poor form this season has coincided with a lean run for the Waratahs.
Yesterday's win was New South Wales' third in 13 games but lifted them above the 13th place on the championship table they have occupied for most of the season.
Lock Dean Mumm and winger Lachlan Turner also scored tries for the Waratahs and fullback Peter Hewat marked his 50th Super 14 match with a haul of 18 points from four penalties and three conversions.
Former All Blacks skipper Tana Umaga's 122-match Super rugby career ended in a loss. Umaga played in the first-ever Super 12 match, between the Hurricanes and Auckland Blues 12 years ago.
Ashley-Cooper scored immediately from the kickoff, dashing 70 meters through a series of weak tackles to give ACT a 12-0 advantage.
Mortlock and Nick Evans exchanged penalties before Morlock's try, six minutes from halftime, concluded the first half scoring.
The patterned play of both sides disintegrated in the second half until a try by Highlanders center Jason Kawau broke a 40 minutes scoring drought.
Chisholm's final try relieved a long period of anxiety for the Brumbies.
Blues 33, Force 6
The Auckland Blues ended a three-match losing streak to secure a Super 14 semi-finals berth, and eliminated the Western Force from contention with a 33-6 bonus-point win on Friday.
The Blues, provisionally second to the Canterbury Crusaders on points difference in the standings, flew to Sydney to await yesterday's results and whether they'll play their semifinal in Australia or South Africa next weekend.
After three successive defeats to South African sides, the Blues' desperation to make the playoffs for the first time in four years was evident by the willingness of the forwards to subdue the Force in driving rain at the Subiaco Oval.
After Luke McAlister kicked the Blues ahead, Isa Nacewa led a breakout from near their own 22 which was finished by winger Rudi Wulf, and ensured the Blues the lead into the interval.
Their relentless pressure eventually cracked the Force in the second half, with three tries in the last 11 minutes to forwards John Afoa, Keven Mealamu -- from a quick throw-in using the wrong ball -- and Tony Woodcock.
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