Victory and a crucial bonus point has kept the Hurricanes in the mix for the Super Rugby Aotearoa title.
The Hurricanes consigned Warren Gatland's Chiefs to the ignominy of a winless campaign - nine straight defeats dating pre-lockdown – and a 73rd minute Billy Proctor try off a brilliant Jamie Booth offload sealed the bonus point which keeps Jason Holland's unheralded outfit in contention for the New Zealand crown.
The Crusaders are heavily favoured to clinch the title when they host the Highlanders in Christchurch on Sunday but, for now at least, the third-placed Hurricanes moved one point behind the Blues and three behind the Crusaders. Next week the Hurricanes travel to Dunedin where they will again need a bonus point victory to have a chance at claiming the title, if it remains alive.
Regardless of the Super Rugby Aotearoa title implications, the Hurricanes can take pride from extending their winning streak to five matches – a run which includes being the only team in the past four years to knock over the Crusaders in Christchurch. It's been a remarkable recovery from the Hurricanes after dropping their first two matches of this campaign.
In front of a frozen 21,489 Wellington crowd, the Hurricanes were a class above the Chiefs, leading 12-3 at halftime before eventually kicking away for a comfortable five-tries-to-two victory.
Jordie Barrett and Peter Umaga-Jensen led the Hurricanes from an individual standpoint but concerns were palpable for Sam Cane after the All Blacks captain was knocked out in an ugly incident.
Everyone held their breath 26 minutes into the contest when Cane copped a nasty hip to the head and lay prone on the turf. The contact with Barrett's hip left Cane unconscious and he did not return to the game, but he at least left the field without the use of a stretcher.
Two years on from the neck fracture in South Africa that almost ended his career, this was a scare he could do without.
Gatland's Chiefs, meanwhile, finish their season with the fewest points, tries, line breaks and most tries and turnovers conceded. While they didn't lack heart their attack in particular was again bereft of confidence, and they will probably welcome the chance to escape the losing habit.
The intent to chase the bonus point from the Hurricanes was clear from the outset. They turned down shots at goal in favour of kicking for the corner and their rate of offloads was more akin to touch rugby. Vince Aso in particular pushed passes in contact at every opportunity.
The Hurricanes were at their best when they settled, somewhat. With Tyrel Lomax anchoring the scrum this area continued to be a solid platform to launch attacking raids and TJ Perenara took ownership of the kicking to plug the corners on several occasions.
Umaga-Jensen was the standout of the first half. The 22-year-old has made his mark in the midfield since lockdown and his two tries and brilliant line-running ability again left a lasting impression.
To open the scoring he hit the line at pace to collect a flat Perenara ball and crash over in the tackle of Anton Lienert-Brown. For his second, Umaga-Jensen dished and then received a pass from Wes Goosen on the left edge.
Barrett survived a scare when he twisted his knee to deliver another influential display from fullback, a position he is making his own. Whether it was laying on crunching hits, knocking over goals, being safe under the high ball or offloading in contact, Barrett was ever-present as he has been throughout this campaign.
The best moment of the first half for the Chiefs came when Hurricanes wing Kobus Van Wyk was yellow carded for unnecessarily throwing Brad Weber into a dangerous position. Even then, though, the Chiefs attack struggled to exploit their one man advantage, only doing so once at the start of the second spell when Sean Wainui scored the first of their two strikes.
When the Hurricanes returned to their full contingent, however, they were always in control.
Whatever happens on Sunday, the Hurricanes have proved a point this season.
Hurricanes 31 (Peter Umaga-Jensen 2, Dane Coles, Kobus Van Wyk, Billy Proctor tries; Jordie Barrett 3 cons)
Chiefs 18 (Sean Wainui, Mitch Karpik tries; Damian McKenzie con, 2 pens)
- analysis by Liam Napier, NZ Herald