The Hurricanes kept their challenge for the Super 14 up on Saturday with a comfortable 29-12 bonus point win over the Cheetahs in New Plymouth.
The result of the match was rarely in doubt after Tamati Ellison's try on the stroke of half-time. The home side was more inventive and more assured on the ball except for line-outs (where they lost a staggering 11 of their own throws) varying their approach until they found a way through.
The Cheetahs, many of whom were playing their first tour match, did not look out of their depth but nor did they look particularly good at swimming either. Rare attacks often foundered on technical offences.
Yet they hung in there, keeping the score down with some spirited defence and taking opportunities clinically. It may be another pointless defeat but there is no sense of resignation among the side.
Piri Weepu gave his side an eighteenth-minute lead with a penalty for offside, having missed one shortly beforehand.
It took another seven minutes for the 'Canes to finally break through, with Hosea Gear profiting from the space created by Conrad Smith's inside running line.
Weepu's conversion gave his side a 10-0 lead but the Cheetahs halved the deficit, disrupting a line-out - an area in which David de Villiers and Flip van der Merwe frequently excelled - and scrum-half Sarel Pretorius pounced for the try.
Still the Hurricanes pressed, then a moment of real invention gave them a healthy half-time lead. Ma'a Nonu, whose direction and passing from twelve was a cut above, spun the ball back to the short side with an exquisite pass for Tamati Ellison to accelerate through a huge gap fopr the try.
Weepu added the extras and that was it for the first half.
The Cheetahs started the second period with a bang, with a terrific short side passing movement ending in a burst of pace and a try from bustling flanker Wayne van Heerden, converted by Jacques-Louis Potgieter, bringing the scores back to 17-12.
As the visitors upped their pace in search of an equalising score, they let a turnover slip, and Gear raced home from 80 metres to score his second and restore the Hurricanes' 10-point lead at 22-12.
The game was far more open in the second half, with a lovely ebb and flow to it. With nothing to lose, the Cheetahs offloaded at every opportunity in a search for tries, in turn opening up countless opportunities for the home team.
One such move, a length-of-the-field move involving Nonu, Gear and Zac Guildford stumbled on a wicked bounce at a grubber through.
The Hurricanes sealed the bonus point with 15 minutes to go, with John Schwalger burrowing over after a back-line move had brought his team to within five metres of the line, comprehensively killing the game off as a contest despite a late spell of Cheetahs pressure.
Man of the match: Hosea Gear never stopped threatening with the ball in hand.
For the Hurricanes:
Tries: Gear 2, Ellison, Schwalger
Cons: Weepu 3
For the Cheetahs:
Tries: Pretorius, van Heerden
Hurricanes: 15 Tamati Ellison, 14 Zac Guildford, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Piri Weepu, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Rodney So'oialo, 7 Scott Waldrom, 6 Karl Lowe, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Tim Fairbrother, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Neemia Tialata.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Hore/Ged Robinson, 17 John Schwalger, 18 Api Naikatini, 19 Faifili Levave, 20 Willie Ripia, 21 Jason Kawau, 22 David Smith.
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller,14 Bjorn Basson ,13 Piet van Zyl, 12 Hanno Coetzee, 11 Jongi Nokwe, 10 Jacques- Louis Potgieter, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Hendro Scholtz (c), 7 Wayne van Heerden, 6 Heinrich Bruss÷w, 5 David de Villiers, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Bees Roux, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Wiaan du Preez
Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Jean Botha, 18 Francois Uys, 19 Kabamba Floors, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Meyer Bosman, 22 Danwell Demas
Referee: Paul Marks (Australia)
Touch judges: Vinny Munro (New Zealand), Glenn Newman (New Zealand)
Television match official: Michael Fraser (New Zealand)
Assessor: Arrie Schoonwinkel