Wellington (AFP) - Waikato Chiefs' captain Sam Cane admitted his side were "a bit lucky" after a 28-27 victory over the Wellington Hurricanes exposed cracks in their grip on the Super Rugby competition.
The Chiefs benefited from a questionable try in a wafer-thin victory that showed the Hurricanes are also likely to be serious contenders at the business end of the season.
The Western Stormers and the Golden Lions also remain threats as the regular season passed the halfway stage, as do the ACT Brumbies and Canterbury Crusaders who clash later on Sunday in Canberra.
At the bottom of the table, it was a historic weekend for Japan's Sunwolves who posted their first win at the expense of the Jaguares from Argentina in the battle of the competition newcomers.
The Chiefs triumphed after a dubious try to register their seventh win in eight games while the Hurricanes dominated much of the game only to let themselves down with handling lapses and wayward goal kicking.
"We were a bit lucky," Cane conceded. "We didn't play very well. The Hurricanes were probably the better team."
The Hurricanes had an edge in the forwards and fly-half Beauden Barrett frequently exposed defensive lapses.
He set up the Canes' first try for Cory Jane, scored himself, landed a pressure drop goal and made a break in the last play of the game that should have produced a winning try.
But on the downside he missed two penalties and two conversions, while his pass to an unmarked Jason Woodward at the end of the game was dropped.
- Benefit of the doubt -
The Chiefs were thankful for the counter-attacking creativity of fullback Damian McKenzie plus his kicking skills as he superbly judged the swirling wind to convert all four tries.
They also received the benefit of the doubt when their first try was awarded to Seta Tamanivalu although replays seemed inconclusive as to whether the ball was legally grounded.
In Cape Town, veteran Schalk Burger and debutant Brandon Thomson featured in the Stormers 40-22 win over the Queensland Reds to stay top of the Africa 1 conference.
Burger came off the bench to provide telling leadership after the Australians threatened an upset by taking a five-point lead with 28 minutes remaining.
Thomson, a 21-year-old who started the season as the fourth-choice Stormers fly-half, also came on in the second half and calmly kicked three penalties and a conversion.
The Lions, the Africa 2 conference leaders, used a 10-minute numerical advantage to score three tries en route to a 45-10 bonus-point triumph over Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth.
They were up 14-5 when Kings flanker Thembelani Bholi was sin-binned and the score had ballooned to 33-5 by the time he returned.
The Coastal Sharks snapped a three-match losing streak with a 15-14 win over defending champions the Otago Highlanders in Dunedin.
Gary April booted five penalties to score all the points for the Sharks who were tryless despite the Highlanders playing most of the game with 14 men after centre Jason Emery was red-carded for a dangerous tackle on Willie le Roux.
In Tokyo, the Sunwolves rebounded from last week's 92-17 hiding by the Central Cheetahs to stun the Jaguares 36-28.
The Cheetahs, meanwhile, were beaten 36-14 by the Melbourne Rebels who scored 26 unanswered points in the second half.
The NSW Waratahs ran in six tries to one to beat the Western Force 49-13.