April 23 (Reuters) - Damian McKenzie kicked a penalty after the fulltime hooter to give the Waikato Chiefs a 26-24 victory over the Wellington Hurricanes in Hamilton on Friday and keep them on course for a spot in the Super Rugby Aotearoa final.
The fullback was mobbed by his team mates after slotting the kick from 45 metres out to deliver a fifth straight win for his team and solidify their second place in the standings five points clear of the Auckland Blues.
It was the third week in a row that McKenzie penalties had earned the Chiefs victory after a "golden point" win over the Otago Highlanders and last week's upset of the Canterbury Crusaders.
The reigning champion Crusaders, who top the standings by three points, take on the Blues in Christchurch on Saturday to round out the penultimate round of the regular season. The top two will contest the final.
The Chiefs came into the match full of confidence after their win over the Crusaders but were quickly deflated when Hurricanes lock James Blackwell barged through their defensive line to score in the opening minute.
The home side hit back when number eight Pita Gus Sowakula peeled off the back of a rolling maul just after 31 minutes, however, and only a 55-metre penalty from Hurricanes fullback Jordie Barrett prevented them from taking a lead into the break.
The Chiefs broke the 10-10 tie with a McKenzie penalty and a converted try from flyhalf Bryn Gatland in the first eight minutes of the second half but the Hurricanes, playing only for pride, refused to lie down.
Replacements Billy Proctor and Asafo Aumua both crossed for tries and when Barrett converted the latter score, the Hurricanes led 24-23 with 12 minutes left on the clock.
The Chiefs stormed forward looking for the points they needed but were stymied by stiff defence and their own errors until McKenzie again delivered a last-gasp victory from the kicking tee.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney, editing by Toby Davis)
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