The Chiefs provisionally moved to the top of the Super Rugby table on Friday thanks to a 35-27 victory over the Western Force at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton.
The teams scored four tries apiece to earn a bonus point each. The full house for the Chiefs takes them four points clear of the Hurricanes – who face the Reds on Sunday – at the summit of the overall standings.
The game appeared to be over as a contest on the half-hour mark when Force scrum-half Ian Prior was shown a red card for a tip tackle, but the Australian side must be commended for fighting until the end, scoring three tries with a man down.
The Chiefs will have to take a long, hard look at how they approached the second half. They dominated both possession and territory but did not show the patience that would surely have broken the Force defence down.
There were line breaks aplenty but the home side's intensity dropped every time they managed to get a gap on the score board. And every time the tenacious Force outfit hit back.
Wing Tim Nanai-Williams was the chief attacking threat for the home side, seemingly busting clear at will, and he was rewarded with a try in the second period having set up the Chiefs' first.
The Chiefs led 23-8 at the interval thanks to tries from centre Charlie Ngatai and hooker Hika Elliot as they overturned the deficit created by Force flank Angus Cottrell's early touch down.
A cricket score looked on the cards as the Chiefs were awarded a penalty try soon after the restart courtesy of their dominant scrum.
But the Force upset the apple cart via two well-earned tries through wing Luke Morahan and skipper Matt Hodgson to keep the visitors in touch on the hour mark.
Nanai-Williams' magic feet made sure the hosts got the bonus point however as he beat five defenders to cross for a try that gave them some breathing room in the final quarter.
Yet the Force kept coming with replacement hooker Heath Tessmann crashing over late on to earn his team a well-deserved losing bonus point.
Tries: Ngatai, Elliot, Penalty try, Nanai-Williams
Cons: M. McKenzie 3
Pens: M. McKenzie 3
Tries: Cottrell, Morahan, Hodgson, Tessmann
Cons: Burton 2
Pens: Burton 2
Red card: Prior
Chiefs: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Charlie Ngatai, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Tim Nanai-Williams, 10 Marty McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Johan Bardoul, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Matt Symons (c), 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Mitchell Graham.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Ben Tameifuna, 19 Michael Fitzgerald, 20 Liam Squire, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Damian McKenzie, 23 Andrew Horrell.
Western Force:15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Luke Burton, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Steve Mafi, 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pekahou Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Oliver Hoskins, 19 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 20 Kane Koteka, 21 Ryan Louwrens, 22 Junior Rasolea, 23 Marcel Brache.
Venue: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant referees: Kane McBride, Mike Lash
TMO: Glenn Newman