Wellington (AFP) - The Wellington Hurricanes thrashed the Canterbury Crusaders 35-10 to go top of the Super Rugby ladder in Christchurch on Saturday.
The five-tries-to-one victory left the Hurricanes with an anxious wait until the end of the Waikato Chiefs and Otago Hurricanes match later on Saturday, to determine their play-off fate.
In the high-stakes encounter, with extreme risk-taking in search of reward, the Hurricanes turned a perceived midfield weakness into a strength with Jason Woodward and Willis Halaholo scoring two of their of five tries.
Replacement flanker Callum Gibbins then put them into bonus point territory with ten minutes remaining.
But while the victory elevated the Hurricanes to the top, they could still be overtaken by the Chiefs and Highlanders, as well as South Africa's Golden Lions, who still have to play the Jaguares.
The top four New Zealand teams went into the final round with a chance to head the conference and secure the one guaranteed home quarter-final spot, while they other three are destined to travel overseas.
Before the match, both sides were forced into late replacements.
The Crusaders lost Sam Whitelock and Andy Ellis during the warm-up, while the Hurricanes had to rush Woodward onto the field at outside centre.
He replaced Ngani Laumape who was already an injury replacement for Matt Proctor.
It was Woodward who scored the opening try, running off a Beauden Barrett pass to finish off a sustained attack on the Crusaders line.
A Richie Mo'unga penalty eventually put the home side on the board and he also converted a Ryan Crotty try for the Crusaders to lead 10-7.
But on the stroke of half-time, scrum-half TJ Perenara charged down a clearing kick by his opposite Mitchell Drummond to regain the lead for the Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes held a slender 14-10 at half-time and Halaholo, who has struggled for game time, proved the game-breaker 15 minutes into the second half.
In a rare opportunity as a starting player to replace the injured Vince Aso, Halaholo bumped off an ineffectual tackle attempt by Crotty to score under the posts.
Barrett landed the conversion to give the Hurricanes a 10-point buffer and they followed with tries to Gibbins.
That gave them the bonus-point three-try advantage before Barrett put the icing on the cake with a try at the end.