A last-minute try from the Chiefs' Josh Ioane has handed the Hurricanes top spot and home advantage throughout the Super Rugby Pacific playoffs as the most competitive season for many years came to a dramatic close.

The Blues needed a bonus-point win over the Chiefs at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday to top the table ahead of the Hurricanes on point difference and were well on their way when forward Akira Ioane bagged their fifth try of the game in the 64th minute.

They needed three tries more than their opponents to secure the all-important bonus point and would have been confident even after Quinn Tupaea crossed for the Chiefs' second five-pointer in the 68th minute.

The Chiefs, despite having no chance of winning the match and having nothing but pride to gain, kept battering away at the Blues defensive line before replacement back Ioane sliced through to score his side's third try in the dying seconds.

The Blues deservedly won the match 31-17 on the back of their powerful pack and No.8 Hoskins Sotutu's 10th and 11th tries of the season, but that was little consolation for the stunned home players.

"We can be happy with the win but our goal was to win with a bonus point and unfortunately we didn't do that," said Blues captain Patrick Tuipulotu.

"That's very disappointing for us."

Winger Salesi Rayasi had earlier scored a hat-trick of tries as the Hurricanes downed a resilient Highlanders outfit 41-14 in the New Zealand capital to ensure the battle for top spot would go down to the penultimate match of the regular season.

The Hurricanes will now host the Melbourne Rebels in what could be the Australian team's final Super Rugby match next weekend, while the Blues will welcome Fijian Drua to Eden Park for their quarter-final.

The ACT Brumbies will host the Highlanders in Canberra and the Chiefs will play the Queensland Reds in Hamilton.


Blues 31 (Tries: Sotutu 2, Tele'a, Riccitelli, A. Ioane; Cons: Plummer 3) def Chiefs 17 (Tries: Ross, Tupaea, J. Ioane; Cons: McKenzie)


Blues: 15 Stephen Perofeta, 14 Mark Tele’a, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 AJ Lam, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Harry Plummer, 9 Taufa Funaki, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Dalton Papali’i, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Sam Darry, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (captain), 3 Marcel Renata, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Ofa Tu’ungafasi.
Replacements: 16 Kurt Eklund, 17 Joshua Fusitu’a, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Cameron Suafoa, 20 Adrian Choat, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Corey Evans, 23 Cole Forbes.

Chiefs: 15 Shaun Stevenson, 14 Emoni Narawa, 13 Daniel Rona, 12 Rameka Poihipi, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Cortez Ratima, 8 Wallace Sititi, 7 Luke Jacobson (captain), 6 Samipeni Finau, 5 Jimmy Tupou, 4 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 3 George Dyer, 2 Bradley Slater, 1 Aidan Ross.
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Ollie Norris, 18 Sione Ahio, 19 Simon Parker, 20 Kaylum Boshier, 21 Xavier Roe, 22 Quinn Tupaea, 23 Peniasi Malimali.

Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant referees: Stu Curran, Jackson Henshaw
TMO: Glenn Newman