The Canterbury Crusaders scrapped to a 31-29 win over the ACT Brumbies and Western Force pushed Waikato Chiefs to the wire Saturday as New Zealand teams clung on to ensure an unbeaten start to the trans-Tasman Super Rugby competition.
After trailing 19-7 at half-time in Christchurch the Brumbies had the chance to snatch a draw when Rob Valetini scored in the last play of the game, only for Noah Lolesio to send the conversion left of the uprights.
It was a similar scenario in Perth, where Domingo Miotti scored a try on the hooter, but then hooked what would have been a winning conversion right of the posts in a tense 20-19 loss.
The Auckland Blues had an easier time in Melbourne, over-powering the Rebels 50-3.
It followed the Otago Highlanders beating the champion Queensland Reds and Wellington Hurricanes crushing the NSW Waratahs on Friday, underscoring the challenge facing Australian teams against their New Zealand counterparts.
"We had some tired legs from last week but you can't blame that," Crusaders midfielder David Havili said of their narrow win.
"It's a new competition and we've got to step up. It wasn't good enough but we came away with the win."
Brumbies captain Allan Alaalatoa said their mindset was to attack from the outset and it was frustrating to finish just short against the Super Rugby Aotearoa winners.
"I'm definitely proud of the effort, especially the fight that we showed in the second half to put us back in the game," he said.
"But obviously the boys are disappointed with the loss. We came here to win."
The Crusaders attacked from the whistle with Ethan Blackadder running 22 metres for the opening try.
When Scott Sio scored a converted try to give the Brumbies a 7-5 lead, the Crusaders countered immediately with Richie Mo'unga shaking off three defenders to score, then Havili followed with an intercept try.
In the third quarter, an Irae Simone try converted by Lolesio, who also added a penalty, closed the gap to 19-17.
But the Crusaders came back with tries to Brendon O'Connor and Cullen Grace to lead 31-17, only for the Brumbies to control the closing minutes.
In Perth, the Chiefs started at a lightning pace with Alex Nankivell powering over after five minutes.
Their scrum was dominant but they were slapped with two yellow cards near the end of the first half and the Force were awarded a penalty try to level the score at 7-7.
The home team fought hard but a yellow card to Jordan Olowofela changed the dynamic and the Chiefs' Nathan Harris and Jonah Lowe both dotted down within the space of two minutes.
However a red card for Luke Jacobson with 14 minutes left opened the door again. Winger Richard Kahui scored against his old team to haul them back to 14-20 before the late drama with Miotti.
In Melbourne, the Blues dominated territory and possession in their lopsided six tries to none win.
After a scrappy start, Otere Black nailed three penalties and Zarn Sullivan a fourth before Tom Robinson finally crossed after the half-time hooter for a 17-3 lead.
They dismantled the Rebels in the second stanza, exposing the home team's defensive frailties. No.8 Hoskins Sotutu barged over for two tries, while Akira Ioane, AJ Lam, and Rieko Ioane grabbed one apiece.