The Hurricanes took one giant leap towards the semis, while the Reds took two steps back after suffering a 44-21 defeat in Wellington.
The Hurricanes took one giant leap towards the Super 14 semis, while the Reds took two steps back after suffering a 44-21 defeat in Wellington on Friday.
A Hosea Gear hat-trick and 31 unanswered points in the second half helped the Hurricanes along to a six-try bonus point victory over the Reds, as the hosts leapfrogged their way into the top four.
The loss was the first taste of back-to-back defeats for the Queenslanders this year and could all but end their fairytale season, with the Waratahs and Brumbies in a position to drop their Australian rivals to as low as seventh on the table at the conclusion of the penultimate round.
The Reds have suffered numerous injuries this season, and despite a series of brave performances that included the scalps of the Crusaders, Bulls and Stormers, they look to be a spent force. The Hurricanes on the other hand have saved their best rugby for the most important stage of the competition, notching up a third straight bonus-point victory.
Withstanding a riotous Reds three-try burst midway through the first half, the Hurricanes turned on an impressive display of composure in the second half. Down 8-21 at one stage, and seemingly powerless to contain the effervescent Reds, the Hurricanes soaked up the pressure and unleashed their own scoring tidal wave just after half-time.
The hosts started swiftly when Gear tiptoed down the sideline to set up full-back Cory Jane for the opening try after eleven minutes played.
From a ruck in the Reds' 22m area, Aaron Cruden took on the line and the ball emerged for wing Tamati Ellison to place a flat pass across to Gear. He took the tackle along the sideline and passed inside to Jane who was in support.
But someone flicked a switch and the visitors stunned the Hurricanes with three tries in 11 minutes to race to a 21-8 lead. High-octane Reds attack, with Quade Cooper attacking the line, was met by sluggish defence as the game was busted open.
Captain Will Genia darted through to set up impressive flanker Scott Higginbotham; winger Rod Davies scorched clear for their second before departing with a hamstring injury, then former League player Will Chambers won the race to the ball from a Cooper kick after the Reds found more holes in the Hurricanes' midfield.
The Hurricanes needed some inspiration to get back in it, and Jane provided it when he beat three defenders down the left and combined again with Gear to score on the stroke of half-time and cut the deficit to eight.
The second half started just as disastrously for Queensland with flanker Andrew Shaw shown a yellow card for a dangerous tackle just two minutes after the restart, continuing the side's poor run with sin-bins this season.
The Hurricanes took full advantage, scoring another three tries in the space of 12 minutes as the injury-hit Reds fell to pieces with ill-discipline and poor defence.
Gear scored his second after the Reds made a mistake on their own line, while a sublime exhibition of handling was beautifully finished by the smart-stepping Tamati Ellison. This score represented a remarkable turning of the tide, but it also ensured a valuable bonus point.
The Reds were then restored to full numbers, but the 14-0 burst seemed to have crushed their spirit, with Gear completing his hat-trick just inside the hour-mark as Ma'a Nonu sliced through off Cruden's inside ball. Replacement wing David Smith completed the scoring for the home side when he breezed over from a short scrum.
Returning scrum-half Piri Weepu put in a strong kicking display by knocking over six from eight goals for the Hurricanes to help celebrate veteran number eight Rodney So'oialo's 100th Super Rugby match with a win.
Man of the match: There were many who stood out for the 'Canes, but none more so than Hosea Gear who put his name in the All Blacks hat with his crisply taken hat-trick.
Tries: Jane, Gear 3, T Ellison, Smith
Cons: Weepu 4
Pens: Weepu 2
Tries: Higginbotham, Davies, Chambers
Cons: Cooper 3
Hurricanes: 15 Cory Jane, 14 Tamati Ellison, 13 Jason Kawau, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Rodney So'oialo, 7 Karl Lowe, 6 Michael Paterson, 5 Bryn Evans, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Andrew Hore (c), 1 Jacob Ellison.
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 John Schwalger, 18 Nick Crosswell, 19 Scott Waldrom, 20 Tyson Keats, 21 Willie Ripia, 22 David Smith.
Reds: 15 Peter Hynes, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Will Chambers, 12 Anthony Faingaa, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia (c), 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Andrew Shaw, 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 Van Humphries, 4 Radike Samo, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Ben Daley.
Replacements: 16 Sean Hardman, 17 James Slipper, 18 Ezra Taylor, 19 Jake Schatz, 20 Lei Tomiki, 21 Ben Lucas, 22 Brando Va'aulu.
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)