The undermanned Wellington Hurricanes, without five suspended players, were far from their fluent best but courtesy of two tries to Jason Woodward still managed to record a 29-14 victory over the Queensland Reds on Saturday.
The Hurricanes were embroiled in minor controversy this week with five of their players, including three All Blacks, stood down for the Reds match after they breached a team curfew in South Africa last week.
Blustery winds at Wellington Regional Stadium did not help either team, though the Reds looked the more controlled in building phases and Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd said his team were guilty of attempting to do too much too early.
The home side's bonus point victory moved them to 36 points on the table and ensured they stayed in touch with the Canterbury Crusaders, Waikato Chiefs and Otago Highlanders, who are all on 37 points.
The Hurricanes, who lacked any intensity in their loss to the Sharks last week, lacked any real fluency on Saturday and their timing was lacking at the breakdown, allowing the Reds' Liam Gill to poach the ball numerous times.
Despite a wealth of first half possession and territory the Reds were only rewarded with two penalties to Japan fullback Ayumu Goromaru.
The home side, however, scored two first half tries with winger Wes Goosen, replacing the suspended Julian Savea, catching a well judged kick from Beauden Barrett to score in the corner with his first touch of the ball in Super Rugby.
Hurricanes captain Dane Coles also crossed at the end of the first half when the home side exploited Hendrik Tui's yellow card for a professional foul to crash over from a rolling maul and give his side a 12-6 lead at halftime.
Goromaru slotted his third penalty shortly after the break before the Hurricanes pounced on a loose ball from the Reds and Woodward kicked ahead to score the home side's third try.
Reds winger Chris Feauai-Sautia narrowed the gap to 17-14 shortly afterwards before Hurricanes replacement centre Ngani Laumape crashed through four defenders after an attacking scrum to give his side some breathing room.
Woodward completed the scoring in injury time when he intercepted the ball inside his own 22-metre area and ran unopposed for his second try.