Fans in Napier were treated to 11 tries as the Hurricanes thrashed their New Zealand rivals the Highlanders 56-20.
Victory meant sure that the Hurricanes booked a home semi-final and a welcome week off following the conclusion of Round 18 next weekend.
Welcoming back Beauden Barrett will have been a welcome sight for Hurricanes fans but it was the men around him who stole the limelight, with scrum-half TJ Perenara and replacement Ma'a Nonu scoring two tries and Nehe Milner-Skudder dazzling with his footwork on the wing.
In the end the hosts finished up with eight tries to their name in yet another comprehensive victory to also pick up their ninth try bonus point of the year.
Understandably the match was overshadowed by the awful news from France that Hurricanes legend Jerry Collins and his partner had lost their lives in a car accident.
An immaculate moment of silence was observed before kick-off as both teams paid their respects to the 48-Test All Black flanker who was loved by players and supporters alike.
What followed was an 80-minute thriller where the tempo never dropped, and it was fantastic to see both sides play with such endeavour right from the off.
The Hurricanes racked up a 23-3 lead after nearly as many minutes before the Highlanders rallied, just as they have all season, but the hosts were too much to handle and the absence of Aaron Smith, Ben Smith, Malakai Fekitoa and Patrick Osborne for the visitors told while their lineout struggled.
Lima Sopoaga had put the Highlanders into an early lead with a well-taken drop goal within the first minute before James Marshall, on kicking duties despite Barrett's return, replied with a penalty.
Marshall doubled his tally after Gareth Evans was sin-binned for collapsing the maul and it wasn't long before the Hurricanes recorded the first try. Fantastic footwork and pace from Milner-Skudder saw him break the defensive line, draw in the defence and then offload out the back to Blade Thomson for a great try.
The full-back Marshall then matched Milner-Skudder's brilliance with a sniping run where he skipped through the defence and scored from 30 metres out.
The Hurricanes were rampant and Perenara stamped their authority with a third try in less than ten minutes after he sniped his way over to make it 23-3.
Desperate for territory and possession the Highlanders hit back through a score for Ryan Tongia, after good work from his captain Ash Dixon to release the winger, and Tongia played a big part in another try shortly after when he burned off the defence to set up an attack which was finished off by Sopoaga as he went over.
Dane Coles however restored order for the hosts with his try before half-time by finishing off some fine handling by the home side, with Marshall's conversion making it 30-13 at the interval.
There was no respite for the Highlanders after half-time as Julian Savea was on the end of some sharp handling from Barrett and Marshall to go over in the corner, the start of a ding-dong five minutes where Marty Banks went over for the Highlanders after having confirmation from the TMO that he didn't knock the ball on, before Perenara grabbed a second after a bustling carry from Ardie Savea.
Nonu made it seven tries for the Hurricanes after his introduction off the bench with ten minutes to go, pointing to the sky in a poignant tribute to Collins, and he had a second not long after when Brad Shields pounced on a loose pass and offloaded on his inside for Nonu to race away.
Putting over 50 points on one of their closest rivals was incredibly impressive by the Hurricanes, whose attention will now turn to the play-offs with one round to go, after a 13th win from 15 games this year.
The Highlanders meanwhile have a little work to do to ensure they make the top six and will keep a close eye on the Chiefs and Brumbies this weekend.
Tries: Thomson, Marshall, Perenara 2, Coles, J Savea, Nonu 2
Cons: Marshall 5
Pens: Marshall 2
Tries: Tongia, Sopoaga, Banks
Drop Goal: Sopoaga
Yellow Card: Evans
Hurricanes: 15 James Marshall, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Rey Lee-Lo, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Blade Thomson, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Reggie Goodes
Replacements: 16 Brayden Mitchell, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 19 Mark Abbott, 20 Brad Shields, 21 Chris Smylie, 22 Willis Halaholo, 23 Ma'a Nonu
Highlanders: 15 Marty Banks, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Jason Emery, 12 Richard Buckman, 11 Ryan Tongia, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Elliot Dixon, 7 John Hardie, 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Josh Hohneck, 2 Ash Dixon (c), 1 Brendon Edmonds
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Joe Latta, 20 Dan Pryor, 21 Scott Eade, 22 Shaun Treeby, 23 Kurt Baker
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant Referees: Shane McDermott, Paul Williams
TMO: Aaron Paterson