A month after being written off as Super 15 pushovers, the Wellington Hurricanes capped a stunning revival by going top of the New Zealand conference with a 35-21 victory over the Queensland Reds on Saturday.
Cory Jane scored a hat-trick of tries as the 'Canes dotted down five times to claim a bonus point and move one point ahead of the previous top New Zealand side the Waikato Chiefs.
For the Reds, supposedly refreshed after a bye last week, it was another unsuccessful mission in what is rapidly becoming a disastrous season for the 2011 champions.
They have now won just three of nine games while the Hurricanes, who won only one of their first five, have now won five from nine.
A run of wins over the Canterbury Crusaders, Northern Bulls, Auckland Blues and now the Reds was built on a belief that the woeful start to the season was not reflective of the team, according to captain Conrad Smith.
"I said at the time we had a lot of faith in what we were doing," Smith said. "We just played very good sides at the start of the season. We knew we weren't doing bad things."
The Hurricanes made most of the play in the first half but for much of the time they trailled on the scoreboard as the Reds went into the break with a 14-10 lead.
An opening try to Ben Lucas and three penalties to Quade Cooper set the platform for the Queenslanders while the 'Canes exploited defensive lapses down the right flank for the first two Jane tries.
But in the second half the Hurricanes stepped up several gears as their loose trio Victor Vito, Jack Lam and Faifili Levave bulldozed through half-gaps while TJ Perenara, Alapati Leiua and Andre Taylor cut through holes further out.
They wiped out the deficit in the first six minutes after the resumption with a try to Perenara converted by Beauden Barrett.
With the 'Canes forwards in charge, they had stretched the lead to 25-14 midway through the half with Janes' third try and a Barrett penalty.
The Reds attempted to keep the game alive with a try to replacement hooker James Hanson, converted by Cooper.
But they could not sustain the rally and the Hurricanes reasserted their dominance with a try to Ardie Savea and a second Barrett penalty in the closing minutes.