The Western Force kept their hopes alive in the final, upsetting the Hurricanes 27-22 at HBF Park.
The hosts picked up a gutsy win over Moana Pasifika on Tuesday and needed a win to keep their dreams alive in Tim Sampson’s final home game.
Watch all Super Rugby Pacific 2022 season matches on Stan Sport. Start your free sports trial now
After the first two penalties, they were stunned by the visitors, who took a 17-6 lead thanks to a brace from Josh Moorby.
However, the Force had so much to play for and showed it with first rowers Santiago Medrano and Andrew Ready scoring on both sides of the break.
As the match ended on the wire, it was Byron Ralston in his potential goodbye who rose to his feet, powering forward to seal the win.
This ensures that Super Rugby Pacific comes down to the last game, with the Highlanders needing a bonus point win or lose against the Rebels.
The potential farewell ended in heartbreaking fashion for Richard Kahui, who was forced off the pitch with a concussion after being picked up by Du’Plessis Kirifi.
Ian Prior, in his 100th game for the club, kicked in two early penalties as the hosts looked to create an advantage despite Jeremy Thrush’s yellow card.
The Hurricanes remained calm and Josh Moorby proved crucial in the first half as he battled down the line in the 20th minute.
The fullback then finished off a fine run from Aidan Morgan to dive under the posts, followed shortly by a charging Brayden Iose.
As their chances in the final waned, it was Argentina international Santiago Medrano who sparked the Force’s comeback, going over the line to close the gap to 16-11 at the break.
They would take the lead shortly after the break following a yellow card to Salesi Rayasi, with Andrew Ready recovering from a blow to the head to land behind the rolling maul.
The impressive Moorby turned playmaker with a superb pass to Rayasi, restoring their lead 20 minutes from time.
It seemed like the end of Tim Sampson’s tenure at the Force as the Hurricanes looked set to hold on.
In the end, it was fellow starter Byron Ralson who kept their season alive.
The Connacht-bound center swept away three tackles and slammed the ball in, putting them ahead by five with just three minutes remaining.
Greg Holmes and the Force peloton produced a final big scrum to earn a penalty and while Reesjan Pasitoa’s sideline striker failed to find the line, they found a way to hang on and get away. ensure victory.
That means the Force final’s hopes rest in the hands of the Rebels, who must beat the Highlanders by more than seven at AAMI Park.
Western strength:15 Jake McIntyre, 14 Brad Lacey, 13 Bryon Ralston, 12 Richard Kahui, 11 Manasa Mataele, 10 Reesjan Pasitoa, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Jackson Pugh, 7 Tim Anstee, 6 Fergus Lee-Warner, 5 Jeremy Thrush, 4 Ryan McCauley, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Andrew Ready, 1 Tom Robertson.
Replacements: 16 Feleti Kaitu’u, 17 Angus Wagner, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Will Sankey, 20 Jack Winchester, 21 Michael McDonald, 22 Jake McIntyre, 23 Kyle Godwin
Hurricanes:15 Josh Moorby, 14 Wes Goosen, 13 Bailyn Sullivan, 12 Billy Proctor, 11 Salesi Rayasi, 10 Aidan Morgan, 9 TJ Perenara (captain), 8 Brayden Iose, 7 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 6 Caleb Delany, 5 Justin Sangster, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Pouri Rateke-Stones.
Replacements: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Xavier Numia, 18 Tevita Mafileo, 19 Blake Gibson, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 23 Teihorangi Walden.
Arbitrator: Angus Gardner
Assistant referees: Graham Cooper, Jordan Kaminski