Highlanders down Chiefs in thriller
Cape Town - The Highlanders on Saturday defeated the Chiefs in a thrilling New Zealand Super Rugby derby which left the Hurricanes as champions of the New Zealand Conference.
The defending champions won 25-15 in at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, after trailing the Chiefs 7-5 at half-time.
The Hurricanes, who earlier upset the Crusaders 35-10, are therefore crowned as winners of the New Zealand Conference and they currently top of the overall log.
The Lions could overtake them as overall leaders if they claim either a win, draw or losing bonus point against the Jaguares in Argentina on Saturday night.
Meanwhile in Dunedin, a yellow card proved costly for the Chiefs whose dynamic defence kept them narrowly in front until 13 minutes into the second half when they were reduced to 14-men and the Highlanders cashed in on the numerical advantage.
It ended a dramatic final round of the regular season for the top Kiwi sides where the Hurricanes started fourth and leapfrogged to the front.
The Chiefs, who went into the weekend as the leading New Zealand side, needed a win to reclaim top spot, while the Highlanders needed a bonus point victory.
The Highlanders' victory came without the extra point, consigning them - along with the Chiefs and Crusaders - to an overseas mission for their quarter-final matches next weekend.
Tries: Waisake Naholo, Dan Pryor, Lima Sopoaga
Conversions: Sopoaga (2)
Penalties: Sopoaga (2)
Tries: Toni Pulu, Lachlan Boshier
Conversion: Damian McKenzie
15 Ben Smith (captain), 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Matt Faddes, 12 Malakai Fekitoa, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 James Lentjes, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Alex Ainley, 4 Tom Franklin, 3 Siosuia Halanukonuka, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown
Substitutes: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Mark Reddish, 20 Liam Squire, 21 Dan Pryor, 22 Te Aihe Toma, 23 Fletcher Smith
15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Seta Tamanivalu, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (co-captain), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Sam Cane (co-captain), 6 Tom Sanders, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Atu Moli, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Kane Hames
Substitutes: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, 18 Hiroshi Yamashita, 19 Taleni Seu, 20 Lachlan Boshier, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Stephen Donald, 23 Sam McNicol