The Chiefs have put themselves in a good position in the Super 14 with a handsome 39-24 bonus-point win over the Highlanders in Waikato in Hamilton on Saturday.
Having blown hot and cold for the season thus far, they followed up on the performance in smashing the Bulls last week by running up four tries within one minute of the start of the second half, winning the battle up front easily and with the backs tearing the Highlanders to shreds at times.
The Highlanders' season is now effectively over after this, their patchiest performance of the season to date, has left them without a win in six games.
They had no answer to the pace of the Chiefs right from the off. With Siviveni Sivivatu and Liam Messam making good ground in the opening minute, the Chiefs forced their way into the visitors' 22 where they won a penalty, from which Stephen Donald opened the scoring. But that was merely the opening.
On nine minutes, Sivivatu one again made the initial break, then slipped a wonderful pass out of the tackle to Richard Kahui. Two phases later - and after a mis-field in midfield by Bruce - Brendon Leonard pounced on the loose ball and scampered over for the first try, with Donald converting.
Sivivatu once again made a telling break off a line-out five minutes later, with only some desperate defence holding the Chiefs out, but they were not to be denied. From a flat pass by Jimmy Cowan into the Highlanders centres, Callum Bruce hacked ahead the loose ball and Liam Messam showed good pace to touch down. Donald made it 17-0.
Lelia Masaga then took a flat pass from Leonard on a perfect outside line to steam over for the third try and a well-deserved 22-0 lead after 26 minutes.
Briefly, the Highlanders flared. First Fetu'u Vainikolo scored after a terrific centre break from Johnny Leota, and then Hoani MacDonald tore down the right for a try in the corner after a blind side move involving Cowan and Adam Thomson.
It was 22-12 at the break, but in the first minute of the second half, a long kick by Donald was well-chased by Masaga, who touched down for his second and the Chiefs' all-important fourth.
There would have been a fifth ten minutes later, but with a huge overlap out left, Highlanders prop Jason Mackintosh interfered with the pass while retreating and deservedly got a yellow card.
Several telling pieces of interplay from the Chiefs ensued, with Sione Lauaki revelling in some freedom and Kahui enjoying some good ball on his return from injury.
Yet the Highlanders, as has been their wont this season, refused to give up, and off a line-out, MacDonald crashed over for his second, with Daniel Bowden making it 27-19.
But once again, Masaga, who is in super form at the moment, made a fabulous break from inside his own 22. He offloaded to Leonard who chipped ahead. Vainikolo fumbled the ball into the post, and Leonard pounced on the rebound to slide over. The try was ruled out by the TMO, but it illustrated the danger the Chiefs posed at any moment. To hammer that point home, from the subsequent 5m scrum, Donald sliced through the line to score under the posts.
Now it was all Chiefs, with Donald kicking the Highlanders back into their own half time and time again. Each time the Chiefs gave chase, you sensed the pressure on the Highlanders defence. Eventually, Bowden rushed a clearance to touch, the Chiefs won a line-out, and Muliaina rounded off a simple backs move for the sixth score.
There was a bonus point for the Highlanders, with Mike Delany crossing for a fourth try for the visitors in the final minute. But there have been a mite too many bonuses in losing for the Highlanders; a win is required, and soon.
Man of the match: Only Chiefs lining up for this one. Richard Kahui, Brendon Leonard, and Liam Messam all played outstandingly, and the tight five generally was dominant. But for multiple moments of magic, the in-form Lelia Masaga takes the vote.
Moment of the match: Masaga's break just before Donald's try. Wonderful balance and pace to beat five tackles.
Villain of the match: Nothing really untoward to report.
For the Chiefs:
Tries: Leonard, Messam, Masaga 2, Donald, Muliaina
Cons: Donald 3
For the Highlanders:
Tries: Vainikolo, MacDonald 2, Delany
Chiefs: 15 Mils Muliaina (c), 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Callum Bruce, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatau, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Sione Lauaki, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Kevin O'Neill, 4 Toby Lynn, 3 Ben Castle, 2 Tom Willis, 1 Simms Davison.
Replacements: 16 Aled de Malmanche, 17 Ben May, 18 Jay Williams, 19 Faifili Levave, 20 David Bason, 21 Dwayne Sweeney, 22 Viliame Waqaseduadua.
Highlanders: 15 James Wilson, 14 Paul Williams, 13 Niva Ta'auso, 12 Johnny Leota, 11 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 10 Daniel Bowden, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Steven Setephano, 7 Alando Soakai, 6 Craig Newby (c), 5 Hayden Triggs, 4 Hoani MacDonald, 3 Clint Newland, 2 David Hall, 1 Jamie Mackintosh.
Replacements: 16 Jason MacDonald, 17 Chris King, 18 Isaac Ross, 19 Adam Thomson, 20 Toby Morland, 21 Mike Delany, 22 Brett Mather.
Referee: Stuart Dickinson (Australia)
Touch judges: Jonathon White (New Zealand), Keith Brown (New Zealand)
Television match official: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)
Assessor: Alan Riley (New Zealand)