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In one of their best performances of the season the Gallagher Chiefs have come away from Westpac Stadium in Wellington with a pulsating 17-14 win over the Hurricanes.

In a breathtaking game of running rugby, befitting two of the best teams in the competition, the Gallagher Chiefs hung on in the final stages for a crucial away win that brings them to within a point of the Hurricanes with one round remaining.

A fast start from the home side saw them swing onto attack early and after several minutes of relentless pressure they cracked the Gallagher Chiefs’ defence with lock Vaea Fifita crashing over the line for an early lead.

Shortly after the restart the Gallagher Chiefs got their hands on the ball and moved down the left wing with James Lowe popping a nice pass to Anton Lienert-Brown who went desperately close to scoring but lost the ball in the tackle just short of the line.

Another promising attack down the left then saw Tawera Kerr-Barlow nearly score but the visitors were denied again by good scrambling Hurricanes defence.

The Hurricanes had the chance to extend their lead at the end of the first quarter of play, but turned down a simple penalty attempt and the Gallagher Chiefs were able to stop them from the resulting lineout.

A superb counter attack saw the Gallagher Chiefs finally get on the scoreboard with Aaron Cruden finishing off a fine team try. Liam Messam started things off, returning a Beauden Barrett kick and finding Solomon Alaimalo in space on the right wing, with Cruden getting over the line after two good offloads infield from Alaimalo and Charlie Ngatai.

The frantic pace of the first half continued with chances at both ends as Cruden nearly got his second of the evening, only to be denied by a great covering tackle from Hurricanes midfielder Vince Aso.

As the exciting first 40 minutes came to a close there was plenty more action but no more scoring to show for the brilliant attacking efforts of both sides, and the teams went into the break tied at 7-7.

A knee injury to Cruden forced a reshuffle to the Gallagher Chiefs backline for the second half with Shaun Stevenson entering the game and Damian McKenzie moving into first five.

The opening stages were a tighter affair compared with the free flowing first half, with neither side really threatening to take the lead outside of a missed penalty attempt from McKenzie.

As the match neared the three quarter mark the Hurricanes slowly gained momentum to test the Gallagher Chiefs defence which was equal to the task, dealing with everything the home side could throw at them.

10 metres from their own line the Gallagher Chiefs then broke clear up the middle of the field with replacement Alex Nankivell finding Lienert-Brown who showed great pace to get inside the Hurricanes 22. But the movement ended badly as a couple of phases later lock Michael Allardice was yellow carded for a reckless ruck clean out.

Despite the one man disadvantage the Gallagher Chiefs launched a decisive attack from a scrum inside their own half. Stevenson produced a big left foot step to split the defence open before accelerating clear and finding Lowe who crossed for the go ahead try.

McKenzie’s conversion hit the upright and went over to give the Gallagher Chiefs a 14-7 lead with 15 minutes remaining, before more pressure from the Hurricanes was absorbed and they were restored to 15 men with no damage done.

A strong kick chase saw the Gallagher Chiefs win a breakdown penalty right in front of the posts and McKenzie made no mistake to nudge the lead out to 10 points.

But an instance response from the Hurricanes saw replacement Wes Goosen score in the right hand corner and Jordie Barrett’s sideline conversion cut the Chiefs’ lead to three and set up a tense final two minutes.

A Hurricanes knock on after the restart put the Gallagher Chiefs in control and they were able to hang on to possession and close out the match to seal four more competition points and a third straight win over the Hurricanes.

Gallagher Chiefs 17 (Aaron Cruden, James Lowe tries; Damian McKenzie 2 cons, pen) Hurricanes 14 (Vaea Fifita, Wes Goosen tries; Jordie Barrett 2 cons) HT: 7-7.

The Gallagher Chiefs now take a five week break from Super Rugby for the international window, with an historic first ever match against the British and Irish Lions just around the corner on Tuesday 20 June at FMG Stadium Waikato (kick off 7.35pm).

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