Dunedin - The Crusaders have recovered from their shock loss to the Sharks last week to snatch a desperate 32-30 victory over the Highlanders in a frenetic local derby Saturday.
The outcome of the match hinged on a video replay after Highlanders wing Patrick Osborne dived over in an Israel Dagg tackle after the final hooter.
After multiple replays, the television match official ruled the ball had touched the sideline and tryline simultaneously and the try was disallowed leaving the Crusaders elated and the Highlanders distraught.
Both sides scored a four-try bonus point in the high-stakes encounter to remain in the top six with the Crusaders provisionally moving to the top of the New Zealand conference.
It was a bitter end for the Highlanders who had produced two tries in the closing 12 minutes and Osborne's final dive came at the end of three minutes of close-range charges which were held back by a desperate Crusaders defence.
Still smarting from their loss to the 14-man Sharks, the Crusaders rocked the Highlanders with a withering start that contained a venom that was lacking a week ago and it was only a matter of time before they scored.
One try opportunity was wasted by a knock on, another was ruled out because of a forward pass before Jordan Taufua powered over to get the scoreboard moving.
But they could not sustain the pressure and when Richie McCaw was yellow-carded for a cynical ruck infringement, the Highlanders bounced back with two tries while the All Blacks skipper was off the field.
Ged Robinson bagged the first, running off an Aaron Smith pass close to the line, and Osborne stepped around three hapless defenders in a burst down the left flank to score the second.
With Colin Slade slotting a penalty just before half-time for the Crusaders, the Highlanders led 12-10 at the turn.
The Crusaders regained the lead immediately after the resumption with a Tim Perry try after big Fijian wing Nemani Nadolo cut through the Highlanders defence in one of his many productive runs in the match.
But every time the Crusaders looked as if they were about to open up a big lead the Highlanders came back at them.
After converted tries to Nepo Laulala and Nadolo and a penalty to Colin Slade the Crusaders had completed their scoring with 10 minutes remaining.
The Highlanders, meanwhile, slowly gathered steam with penalties to Lima Sopoaga and Hayden Parker and tries by Malakai Fekitoa and Ben Smith to close within two points when Osborne was denied his try at the end.Scorers:
Highlanders: 30 - Tries: Ged Robinson, Patrick Osborne, Malakai Fekitoa, Ben Smith; Conversion: Lima Sopoaga, Hayden Parker; Penalties: Sopoaga, Parker
Crusaders: 32 - Tries: Jordan Taufua, Tim Perry, Nepo Laulala, Nemani Nadolo; Conversions: Colin Slade (3); Penalties: Slade (2)
Referee: Glenn Jackson (NZL)
15 Ben Smith (co-captain), 14 Richard Buckman,13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu (co-captain), 7 Shane Christie, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Chris King, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Kane Hames
Substitutes: 16 Sam Anderson-Heather, 17 Matias Diaz, 18 Ma'afu Fia, 19 Tom Franklin, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Hayden Parker, 23 Phil Burleigh
15 Israel Dagg, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Tom Taylor, 12 Ryan Crotty (captain), 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Richie McCaw, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Tim Perry.
Substitutes: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Owen Franks, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 George Whitelock, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Adam Whitelock, 23 Nafi Tuitavake