(Reuters) -The ACT Brumbies prevented a New Zealand shut-out in the semi-finals of Super Rugby Pacific by defending to the death in a 37-33 cliff-hanger against the Wellington Hurricanes in Canberra on Saturday.
Camped on their try-line, the Brumbies held off wave after wave of attacks for nearly five minutes after the siren before Hurricanes skipper Ardie Savea made a dive under the posts, only to be denied a try by the desperate hand of replacement loose forward Luke Reimer.
With the home crowd holding their breath, the television match official reviewed Nic Berry's on-field decision then confirmed it, leaving the Brumbies celebrating victory and Savea crushed.
The Hurricanes skipper argued that he had grounded the ball.
"As much as I disagree, that's just the way it goes," said the emotional flanker. "I scored it, brother. Initially, I scored it anyway.
"It is what is it is. I'm gutted. At the end of the day you can't change it."
The Brumbies' reward will be a tough trip to Hamilton to meet the table-topping Waikato Chiefs, who earlier battled to a 29-20 win over a spirited Queensland Reds team.
In Saturday's other quarter-final, an injury-depleted Canterbury Crusaders thumped Fijian Drua 49-8 in Christchurch to set up a rematch of last year's title-decider against the Auckland Blues.
As dominant as the win was, Scott Robertson's champion Crusaders were left counting the cost.
Already decimated by injuries through the regular season, the Crusaders were down to 13 men in the last 10 minutes when flyhalf Richie Mo'unga limped off, joining lock Zach Gallagher and flanker Ethan Blackadder off field.
By that stage, the Crusaders were cruising with a 42-8 lead.
Yet they still managed to conjure up a seventh try in the final minutes to Willi Heinz.
"Very pleased with how the boys played tonight," said Crusaders captain Scott Barrett. "To finish with 13 men... we covered well."
CRUSADERS CRUSH DRUA
The Crusaders extended their winning streak in Christchurch playoffs to 28 and can stretch it further against the Blues next week as they hunt a seventh championship trophy in seven years under departing head coach Scott Robertson.
The Drua stunned the Crusaders in Fiji in the regular season and turned up to Rugby League Park with hope of at least pushing the hosts.
But they were soon reeling as the Crusaders racked up four converted tries in 33 minutes.
The Chiefs needed a late try from Fiji-born number eight Pita Gus Sowakula to sink the Reds, who had led at the 70th minute and threatened to pull off a huge upset.
Damian McKenzie knocked over five penalties and two conversions in a flawless night off the tee.
"We came up against a really tough Reds side. To be fair, that's what we expected," said Chiefs skipper Sam Cane.
"It was an arm-wrestle, we had to grind it out."
Brad Thorn confirmed he had overseen his last match as Reds coach after six years in the role.
"It's time for a break," said the dual code international.
The Chiefs had only one other try-scorer, with livewire winger Emoni Narawa crossing at the left corner seconds after the half-time siren to put the hosts 16-10 up at the break.
The only team to beat the Chiefs in the regular season, the Reds were gallant in defeat.
Winger Suliasi Vunivalu put his hand up for Wallabies selection with a terrific individual match, scoring the opening try in the ninth minute and grabbing another on the hour mark.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Clare Fallon)