Hurricanes blown away by amazing results sequence
Wellington - No one was more surprised than Hurricanes captain Dane Coles when a turbulent final weekend of Super Rugby's regular season saw his Wellington side emerge as top qualifier.
In a weekend that started with multiple permutations in play, the Hurricanes needed a bonus-point win over the Canterbury Crusaders, who led the competition until three weeks ago, and two other results to go their way.
And that was how it panned out when the Hurricanes whipped the Crusaders 35-10 to catapult from fourth in the New Zealand conference to top overall and guaranteed home matches through the play-offs.
The Chiefs only needed a win to overtake the Hurricanes but were instead beaten 25-15 by the Highlanders who, in turn, were unable to get the winning bonus point they needed to claim the top spot.
The outcome then boiled down to the Lions, who started the weekend in pole position but paid dearly for their gamble to rest 15 of their stars when they went down to the Jaguares.
It was an outcome that even amazed the usually confident Coles.
"I didn't expect to get a bonus point. I am not going to lie," he admitted.
"I knew we could perform and get the result, but to get the bonus point was pretty pleasing."
After the Highlanders beat the Chiefs, the Hurricanes had a nervous wait for the outcome of the Lions game, which was being played in Argentina as Coles and his team flew back to Wellington from Christchurch.
Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd said they pushed the boundaries of air safety rules on the flight trying to monitor what was going on.
"Somebody was watching it on their phone until three minutes before the end when we lost reception and at that stage I think (the Jaguares) were up by 10 or 12 points so I guess that put the icing on the cake for us," he said on landing.
The four conference winners -- the Hurricanes, Lions, Stormers and Brumbies -- will next weekend host quarter-finals against the Coastal Sharks, Crusaders, Chiefs and Highlanders respectively.
It was the Hurricanes' usual backroom players who came to the fore in their demolition of the Crusaders.
Jason Woodward and Willis Halaholo, promoted to start in the centres because of injuries, both scored tries as did replacement flanker Callum Gibbins.