The Chiefs returned to the top of the overall Super Rugby table courtesy of a four-try 34-21 victory over a spirited Lions outfit in Pukekohe on Saturday.
It was the first time in twelve years that this rugby competition had headed south of Auckland to Pukekohe and the conference pace-setters put on a clinical performance in front of the supporters.
Home tries were scored by Aaron Cruden, Craig Clarke, Lelia Masaga and Brendon Leonard while the visitors crossed through replacement Cobus Grobbelaar (2) and Joshua Strauss. Neither kicker missed an attempt in front of the uprights.
Cruden was critical to the Chiefs' victory as his try, assist for Masaga and a faultless night with the boot meant he ended with a nineteen-point haul.
The success at ECOLight Stadium was also a milestone for the Waikato-based outfit as a ninth win in a row equals their most wins in a season.
Cruden dominated the opening quarter as he chalked up thirteen points from two penalties and a converted try following good work from Richard Kahui and Sam Cane.
Lock forward Clarke extended the lead to 20-0 running off a deft off-load from Sonny Bill Williams with Cruden again adding the extra two as the Lions looked second best.
Despite facing the best defensive side in the competition, the Lions were determined to score five pointers rather than penalties and turned down three shots at goal before being rewarded with their first try. It came from a penalty they kicked for the corner to set up a line-out drive from which Grobbelaar went over. Jantjies converted during a difficult opening.
The Chiefs almost had their third try on the stroke of half-time when full-back Andrew Horrell kicked through and a diving Masaga got a hand to the ball just as it rolled on to the dead-ball line. However, he was not to be denied by the TMO soon after the break when the influential Cruden chipped ahead from inside his own half and Masaga finished well under the posts.
Lions skipper Strauss then crashed over from another line-out but their joy was short-lived as Leonard slid in for the bonus-point score after the Lions had coughed up possession.
Another rolling maul saw replacement back-row forward Grobbelaar grab his second try of the game on 68 minutes, but the Chiefs finished the game stronger to return to the summit.
Tries: Cruden, Clarke, Masaga, Leonard
Con: Cruden 4
Pen: Cruden 2
Tries: Grobbelaar 2, Strauss
Con: Jantjies 3
Chiefs: 15 Andrew Horrell, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Kane Thompson, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Tanerau Latimer, 5 Michael Fitzgerald, 4 Craig Clarke (c), 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Arizona Taumalolo, 18 Alex Bradley, 19 Scott Waldrom, 20 Tawera Kerr- Barlow, 21 Jackson Willison, 22 Maritino Nemani.
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Deon Van Rensburg, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Lionel Mapoe, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Joshua Strauss (c), 7 Grant Hattingh, 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Franco Van der Merwe, 3 Patric Cilliers, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 CJ Van der Linde, 18 Cobus Grobbelaar, 19 Jaco Kriel, 20 Tian Meyer, 21 James Kamana, 22 Michael Killian.
Referee: Ian Smith (Australia)