Dogfight expected to settle the minor playoff places

Super Rugby has some issues but there is a lot to like about it when it involves thrilling finishes, dazzling rugby and the Crusaders losing.

Another short round — four more teams had the bye — featured plenty of discussion points.

Straight to the meat: the Crusaders lost again, and the perennial champions remain mired in 11th with a single win from seven games.

They were stunned in the most dramatic fashion in the late Friday game in Sydney.

Replacement first five Will Harrison kicked a late penalty then a drop goal in golden point to seal a wild 43-40 win for the Waratahs, just their second victory of the season.

The lead changed 13 times in one of the classic encounters in Super Rugby.

The Crusaders, who spent seemingly forever just finding a way to win games by margins big and small, really only had themselves to blame.

Otago loose forward Christian Lio-Willie appeared to have sealed victory for Rob Penney’s team when he crashed over from the blindside of a scrum in the final minute.

Crusaders first five Rivez Reihana started to let the clock run down but kicked the conversion much too early, meaning the Waratahs had a lifeline.

They got the ball back when the Crusaders botched the restart, swung on to attack, and earned a penalty — Harrison would kick it to make it 40-40 and force golden point — when Crusaders winger Johnny McNicholl was whistled for a deliberate knock-on.

The Crusaders are still just six points off a place in the bloated playoffs but this is really not a season in which they deserve to be playing knockout rugby.

That is not the case with the Hurricanes, who charged to a seventh straight win as they beat the Chiefs 36-23 in a battle of the heavyweights in Wellington on Saturday.

Jordie Barrett and rising fullback Ruben Love capitalised on a dominant Canes scrum, while veteran halfback TJ Perenara scored two tries to take his tally to 62, tied for the Super Rugby record with former team-mate Julian Savea.

The Hurricanes lead the competition on 32 points, followed by the Blues, Brumbies (both 27), Rebels (24) and Chiefs (23) in a clear top five.

Just six points separate the sixth-placed Reds (17) and the 10th-placed Highlanders (11), so there should again be a dogfight for the minor playoff places.

There is one final bye round this weekend with the pick of the games being the Hurricanes against the Drua in Fiji, and the Blues hosting the Brumbies at Eden Park.