The Chiefs have got their Super Rugby Pacific season off to a perfect start, overcoming the Highlanders 26-16 at the Whakatipu Rugby Club.
Returning lock Brodie Retallick made an instant impact with a freak offload to fullback Emoni Narawa, closing out the three-tries-to-one victory.
With both sides trading penalty goals to start the game, a Xavier Roe break from the scrum found centre Alex Nankivell, with captain Sam Cane there to receive the offload and barge over for the opening try of the game.
The ill-disciplined Highlanders failed to take their chances early on allowing former teammate Josh Ioane to build scoreboard pressure, launching two penalties in-between Cane’s diving effort.
Towards the end of the half, some magic from Pita Gus Sowakula saw the Chiefs take a commanding 18-6 lead into the break.
With time ticking down, the number eight took to the blindside from the 5 metre scrum, hurdling Highlanders halfback Aaron Smith for the athletic put down.
From here, the Chiefs put the game out of reach as Retallick’s deft pass found Narawa to secure the win for the Aotearoa runners-up.
Whilst replacement prop Daniel Lienert-Brown found the line with 12 minutes to go off the back of a strong forwards effort, it was too little too late as a Bryn Gatland penalty goal put the result out of doubt.
The Chiefs will next face newcomers Moana Pasifika in Dunedin, while the Highlanders will host the Crusaders at Forsyth Barr Stadium the following day.
Chiefs 26 (Cane, Narawa & Sowakula tries; Ioane conversion, 2 penalties, Gatland penalty) Highlanders 16 (Lienert-Brown try; Hunt conversion, 3 penalties)
CHIEFS: 15 Emoni Narawa, 14 Shaun Stevenson, 13 Alex Nankivell, 12 Quinn Tupaea, 11 Jonah Lowe, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Xavier Roe, 8 Pita Gus Sowakula, 7 Sam Cane (co-captain), 6 Luke Jacobson, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Laghlan McWhannell, 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 Bradley Slater, 1 Ollie Norris.
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Atu Moli, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 20 Kaylum Boshier, 21 Brad Weber (co-captain), 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Chase Tiatia.
HIGHLANDERS: 15 Sam Gilbert, 14 Mosese Dawai, 13 Fetuli Paea, 12 Scott Gregory, 11 Josh Timu, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith (captain), 8 Gareth Evans, 7 James Lentjes, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Josh Dickson, 4 Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Ethan de Groot
Replacements: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Bryn Evans, 20 Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, 21 Folau Fakatava 22 Marty Banks, 23 Thomas Umaga-Jensen.
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant referees: Angus Mabey, Marcus Playle