A DOMINANT second half by the Hurricanes gave the Wellington franchise a 35-19 win over the Queensland Reds and saw it regain top spot on the New Zealand conference from the Chiefs.
Victory in Brisbane meant the Hurricanes have now grabbed five straight road wins for the first time in their history.
Shaking off their solitary loss at home to the Waratahs last week, they moved a point ahead of the Chiefs and etched another line under the May 16 encounter between the teams that could have larger ramifications come playoff time.
Despite Brisbane's position on the ladder, the Hurricanes defence hardly covered itself in glory early, allowing the home side to take the lead through two tries to giant centre Samu Kerevi.
It was also under pressure from the Reds scrum, unable to gain parity even when the Queensland side lost flanker Liam Gill to the sin bin.
But their attack was once again electrifying, even if it did take half an hour to warm to its work, with the Hurricanes squandering plenty of possession in the opening stages and appearing in need of a more basic approach.
The Reds' plan was pure and twice brought success - take advantage of penalties to gain ideal field position, constantly snipe around the edges to commit numbers to the breakdown, then fling it to Kerevi and watch him go to work.
But if basics were desired, the Hurricanes, naturally, eschewed the easy option. First Conrad Smith more than made amends for slipping off Kerevi on the first try, combining with a spectacular Ma'a Nonu offload to unleash TJ Perenara, then Nonu's bust down the left eventually saw Callum Gibbins cross.
The halftime break arrived at exactly the wrong time for the visitors, given the tempo they had attained. The Reds wisely took the sting out of the contest, remembering to again work with territory and reaping the rewards through Gill.
But such a strategy was can last only so long against a team who can score from anywhere. And, equally rapid as the first-half double-strike, Julian Savea's strength and Matt Proctor's speed soon secured the bonus point that took the Hurricanes back to the top of the table.
While the Chiefs versus Hurricanes could decide top spot in New Zealand, Friday night's blockbuster between the Brumbies and Waratahs could potentially achieve the same result for the Australian conference.
The Brumbies lead the Tahs by four points, and can secure some breathing space with a victory.
ROUND 11 RESULTS:
CHIEFS 35 (penalty try, C Ngatai, H Elliot, T Nanai-Williams tries; M McKenzie 3 con, 3 pen) WESTERN FORCE 27 (A Cottrell, L Morahan, M Hodgson, H Tessmann tries; L Burton 2 con, pen); in Hamilton on Friday night
BRUMBIES 31 (D Pocock 3, H Speight tries; C. Leali'ifano 4 con, pen); HIGHLANDERS 18 (S Treeby, D Pryor tries; L Sopoaga con, 2 pen); in Canberra on Friday night
CRUSADERS 29 (M Drummond, J Taufua, T Taylor, C Taylor tries; C Slade 3 con, pen) BLUES 15 (F Saili, B O'Connor tries; D Bowden con, pen); in Christchurch on Saturday night
WARATAHS 18 (M Hooper, A Ashley-Cooper, R Horne tries; B Foley pen) REBELS 16 (B Hegarty try, J Debreczeni con, 3 pen); in Sydney on Saturday night
LIONS 34 (W Tecklenburg, R Combrinck, L Mapoe, F de Klerk tries; E Jantjies 4 con, 2 pen) CHEETAHS 29 (C Hendricks, F Venter, J Sadie, C Greeff tries; J Pietersen 3 con, pen); in Johannesburg on Saturday night
STORMERS 15 ( D Catrikilis 5 pen) BULLS 13 (B Basson try; H Pollard con 2 pen); in Cape Town on Saturday night
HURRICANES 35 (TJ Perenara 2, C Gibbins, J Savea tries; B Barrett 3 pens, 3 cons) REDS 19 (S (Kerevi 2, S Gill tries; J O'Connor 2 con); in Brisbane yesterday afternoon
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