The Chiefs maintained their dominance of the New Zealand conference with a hard-earned 19-7 win over a willing Highlanders outfit in Hamilton on Friday.
Not flawless by any means, but it was an intriguing game to watch - as both teams played at pace and with high intensity.
It was a real arm-wrestle, with the Highlanders showing their desperation to end one of their worst starts ever to a season.
However, they were simply not as clinical as they were desperate and the first five-pointer came after Highlanders mistake - Tim Nanai-Williams picking up a stray pass inside his half and sprinted clear for the opening try. Gareth Anscombe, who had kicked a penalty in the third minute, added the conversion to make it 10-0 in as many minutes.
The Highlanders finally got some reward for their endeavour as Aaron Smith got over at the end of the first quarter for the Highlanders' first try. He sniped off the back of the scrum, as Jarrad Hoeata held centurion Liam Messam back at the set-piece - creating the illegal gap. Colin Slade added the conversion - 7-10.
Anscombe added penalties in the 24th, 60th and 69th minutes - giving the home team a 12-point lead going into the final 10 minutes.
The Highlanders threw everything into attack to get at least a losing bonus point. However, their execution again failed them.
More to follow...
For the Chiefs:
Pens: Anscombe 4
For the Highlanders:
Yellow card: Jarrad Hoeata (Highlanders, 23 - foul play, high tackle)
Chiefs: 15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Andrew Horrell, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Nick Crosswell, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Michael Fitzgerald, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshal, 17 Ben Afeaki, 18 Romana Graham/Fritz Lee, 19 Tanerau Latimer, 20 August Pulu, 21 Charlie Ngatai, 22 Richard Kahui/Patrick Osborne.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Jason Emery, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Elliot Dixon, 7 John Hardie, 6 Jarrad Hoeata, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Brad Thorn (captain), 3 Chris King, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Jason Rutledge, 17 Bronson Murray, 18 Joe Wheeler, 19 Tim Boys, 20 Frae Wilson, 21 Lima Sopoaga, 22 Phil Burleigh.
Referee: Jonathon White (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), Sheldon Eden-Whaitiri (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand
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