Flyhalf Damian McKenzie and fullback Shaun Stevenson led the Chiefs counter-attacking game as the Hamilton-based team beat the Dunedin-based Highlanders 52-28 to extend their winning start to the season in Super Rugby Pacific to 10 matches.

McKenzie or Stevenson had a designing hand in five of the six tries scored by the Chiefs in their bonus-point win. 

Another came from a 90-metre intercept by centre Daniel Rona, who scored two tries in his second Super Rugby match.

McKenzie also kicked seven conversions and a penalty for 17 point in a flawless performance which saw him surpass 1000 points in Super Rugby.

The magnitude of the Chiefs' win belied the fact they barely touched the ball in the first 20 minutes. 

The Highlanders had 85 per cent of possession in that period and the few fragments the Chiefs got their hands on they kicked away and kicked badly, allowing the home team to score the first try through prop Ethan de Groot.

The Chiefs then scored four tries before halftime, including possibly the best of the season, and conceded another to lead 28-14 at the break. 

"We had to work very, very hard for it," Chiefs captain Brad Weber said. 

"Most of our tries came from counterattack.

"I wouldn't say we have free licence (to counterattack). 

"We've certainly got a plan with our counterattack but also with the back three we've got and when Damian gets back there you want them to express themselves when the situation allows it and we certainly encourage them to do that."

HIGHLANDERS (1-15): Ethan de Groot, Andrew Makalio, Jermaine Ainsley, Fabian Holland, Will Tucker, Shannon Frizell, Billy Harmon (c), Hugh Renton, Aaron Smith, Freddie Burns, Scott Gregory, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Fetuli Paea, Connor Garden-Bachop, Sam Gilbert

RESERVES: Rhys Marshall, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Saula Ma'u, Josh Dickson, Sean Withy, Folau Fakatava, Mitch Hunt, Jona Nareki

CHIEFS (1-15): Aidan Ross, Samisoni Taukei'aho, George Dyer, Tupou Vaa'i, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Pita Gus Sowakula, Sam Cane (co-c), Luke Jacobson, Brad Weber (co-c), Damian McKenzie, Peniasi Malimali, Anton Lienert-Brown, Daniel Rona, Emoni Narawa, Shaun Stevenson

RESERVES: Bradley Slater, Ollie Norris, John Ryan, Josh Lord, Kaylum Boshier, Cortez Ratima, Bryn Gatland, Alex Nankivell 

Referee: Ben O'Keeffe

Assistant Referees: Stu Curran, Jackson Henshaw