In a thrilling – and, at times, brutal encounter – the Chiefs won 28-26 in Hamilton on Friday.
The winning margin was too small for the Chiefs – who had to win by at least 23 points and earn a bonus point to secure home ground advantage in the quarterfinals – and they will have a rematch in Wellington next week.
The Chiefs looked like they might reach their goal when they raced into a 21-0 lead at half time.
But the Hurricanes fought back in an entertaining encounter.
Both teams scored four tries apiece, with the Chiefs starting strongly then slowing after centre Jonathan Faauli was sent off in the second half.
“The last few weeks we’ve started really well and had a great first half but let them come back in the second,” said Chiefs captain Brodie Retallick.
“That’s something we’ll need to look at next week in Wellington.”
Hurricanes skipper Beauden Barrett said he was pleased to retain home advantage, despite defeat in the final match of the regular season.
“Although we didn’t win the game, we can take a bit of confidence knowing we that when we roll up our sleeves and go to work we can apply a bit of pressure,” he said.
Retallick, back from a six-week injury layoff, opened the scoring for the Chiefs with a try in the seventh minute.
The shell-shocked Hurricanes struggled with the Chiefs’ swarming defence and let themselves down with handling errors when they did threaten.
Trailing 21-0, the Hurricanes blew a chance to get on the board early in the second half when Jordie Barrett missed a long-range penalty attempt.
Wes Goosen finally gave them a try in the 51st minute, opening up the game in a frantic 10 minute spell when the Chiefs almost had two tries and the Hurricanes one.
Wellington forward Blade Thomson scored out wide to narrow the gap to 21-14.
The Hurricanes then gained a one-man advantage after Faauli was red-carded for a head-high shoulder charge on Goosen.
Ben May made the most of the extra space to barge over the line for the Hurricanes third try but Mitch Karpik hit back immediately.
Julian Savea crossed for the Hurricanes as the full-time siren sounded but by then the Chiefs had already secured victory and the Hurricanes had done enough to retain their home quarterfinal.
In other news:
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.