The Auckland Blues kept their faint Super 14 semifinal hopes alive with a pulsating 19-17 win over the Wellington Hurricanes in Auckland on Friday.
Trailing 16-17 at half-time, the Blues scored the only points of the second period when fullback Nick Evans kicked his fourth penalty to give his side what turned out to be a match-winning lead.
Wellington threw everything at the Blues over the last 10 minutes but could not break down their stubborn defence.
The Hurricanes remain in second place after the result while Auckland move up to third, but both could miss out on a semifinal spot when the final round is completed in South Africa on Saturday.
Auckland put the first points on the board with an Evans penalty, but Hurricanes winger Hosea Gear grabbed two tries in two minutes top put the visitors firmly in charge.
His first was a brilliant darting run through the middle of the Auckland pack, somehow getting through seven or eight players without being touched, and the second came when he charged down an Evans clearing kick and regathered.
Wellington scrumhalf Pire Weepu converted both tries and added a penalty to make it 17-3, before the Blues staged their comeback.
Lock Anthony Boric crashed over after some sustained pressure and then Evans kicked two more penalties to close the gap to 17-16 at the break.
Auckland opened the second half in commanding fashion and were unlucky not to go ahead when they crossed the line three times in the first 10 minutes, only to be held up once and denied by the video referee on two occasions.
Auckland finally hit the front when Evans kicked another penalty after Hurricanes centre Ma’a Nonu was caught going too high in a tackle.
Wellington flyhalf Willie Ripia had three drop-goal attempts in the last two minutes but put all three wide as the Blues held on for the win. — Reuters