The Chiefs returned to top spot on the Super Rugby standings thanks to a hard-fought 28-22 victory over the Bulls in Hamilton.
The Chiefs returned to top spot on the Super Rugby standings thanks to a hard-fought 28-22 victory over the Bulls in Hamilton on Friday.
In a bruising see-saw battle, the Chiefs – who trailed by eight points (8-16) at the break – outscored the Bulls three tries to one.
Replacement forward Sam Cane dived over for what proved to be the match-winner with 10 minutes of the game remaining, although the result was never guaranteed until the final whistle against a desperate Bulls side.
Springbok pivot Morne Steyn, who finished with 17 points, kept his side in touch with his trusty boot. However it wasn't enough to save the visitors from suffering back-to-back defeats.
The three-time Super Rugby champs did, however, manage to bag a crucial losing bonus point and will head home with two wins and two losses from their Australasian tour.
The win lifts the Chiefs' points tally to 53 – eleven points ahead of the Crusaders at the top of the New Zealand conference and four clear of the Stormers at the top of the table,
It was the Bulls who struck first thanks to a trademark Steyn penalty to put the South Africans in front, before opposite number Aaron Cruden put his team on the board in the 15th minute.
Steyn added a drop-goal, but the Chiefs hit back after an error by wing Akona Ndungane inside his 22 allowed full-back Andrew Horrell to toe the ball ahead and dot down for the opening try.
Cruden added the extras and the hosts were in front 8-6. But Steyn's second penalty kick helped the Bulls leapfrog the Chiefs by one point (8-9) heading into half-time.
That was until prolific winger Bjorn Basson wriggled free of Lelia Masaga and dove over in the corner just seconds before the siren, and Steyn's conversion made the score 16-8 as the players went into the sheds.
The Bulls started the second half with a roar and a hiss but Cruden halted the visitors' momentum with another three-pointer from the tee to close the gap, before Steyn was once again on target to extend his team's lead to back to eight points.
From a set-piece move, the Chiefs eventually re-took the lead after wing Aseli Tikoirotuma took an inside pass from Cruden to motor over the tryline untouched. Cruden converted and it was game on (21-19).
The Bulls weren't prepared to roll over just yet and another Steyn penalty gave them a one-point lead (21-22) with a quarter of the match remaining.
That was until a classic offload from Sonny Bill Williams put the supporting Cane under the posts to give the Chiefs the ascendancy yet again.
With the clock winding down, the Bulls had one last throw of the dice to pull off a win in a frantic final period, but the Chiefs managed to hang on for a well-earned victory.
Tries: Horrell, Tikoirotuma, Cane
Cons: Cruden 2
Pens: Cruden 4
Pens: Steyn 4
Chiefs: 15 Andrew Horrell, 14 Lelia Masaga , 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Kane Thompson, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick , 4 Craig Clarke (c), 3 Ben Afeaki, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Arizona Taumalolo, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Brendon Leonard, 21 Robbie Robinson, 22 Maritino Nemani.
Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 MornÃ© Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 CJ Stander, 6 Dewald Potgieter, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Rayno Gerber, 18 JuandrÃ© Kruger, 19 Arno Botha, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Louis FouchÃ©, 22 JJ Engelbrecht.