Tom Marshall scored a brilliant try to seal a 25-17 victory for the Canterbury Crusaders over a dogged Wellington Hurricanes in Christchurch yesterday, but it was not enough to knock the rival Waikato Chiefs off the top of the New Zealand conference.
The Crusaders needed a four-try win to take a bonus point and put pressure on the Chiefs, but managed only three as the Hurricanes fought to the finish.
The Crusaders cemented a home playoff in the first week of the postseason, but will have plenty to ponder after a disjointed display at home.
The Hurricanes were already out of the playoffs, but took it to the hosts and pulled within a point in the last 15 minutes when winger Julian Savea scored a late try.
The visitors searched desperately for a late score, but jet-heeled winger Marshall dribbled a kick to the left corner in the final minutes and bolted half the length of the field to touch it over the line.
Zac Guildford and Andy Ellis scored two early tries for the Crusaders, who enjoyed good service from in-form flyhalf Dan Carter.
Carter kicked two penalties and two conversions to add 10 points.
Victor Vito and Brad Shields scored early tries to keep the Hurricanes in touch.
In yesterday’s other match, the Melbourne Rebels of Australia defeated New Zealand’s Otago Highlanders 38-37 in Melbourne.
Additional reporting by staff writer