The severely under-strength Chiefs have overwhelmed Moana Pasifika 59-12 in the only fifth-round match played in the COVID-hit New Zealand section of Super Rugby Pacific.
The Chiefs were missing as many as 17 frontline players, including All Blacks Sam Cane, Anton Lienert-Brown, Luke Jacobson, Samisoni Taukei'aho, Angus Ta'avao and Josh Lord, mainly due to COVID-19.
But they still came out winners by nine tries to two at Eden Park on Saturday to solidify their place as the top New Zealand team in the tournament.
The Chiefs were the only New Zealand team able to assemble a competitive team this weekend; the Crusaders, Hurricanes, Highlanders and Blues all were forced to reschedule matches because of COVID outbreaks among their squads.
Chiefs head coach Campbell McMillan dug deep into his squad to put a team on the field and the youngest and least experienced players on his roster, supported by the All Blacks Brodie Retallick, Brad Weber, Quinn Tupaea, Tupou Vaa'i and Josh Ioane produced an outstanding performance.
"We didn't try to chance our arm too much when the game opened up," Weber said. "I thought we made some really good decisions post-line break. We didn't try to force too much."
Moana Pasifika were playing only their second match in five rounds in their debut season because three of their matches have had to be rescheduled due to COVID-related issues.
They showed signs of rustiness on Saturday.
Placed under almost constant pressure by the Chiefs who had a heavy share of possession, its defensive weaknesses were glaringly exposed.
Poor technique at the breakdown also cost it territory through penalties and, eventually, the sin-binning of stand-in captain Christian Leali'ifano during the second half.
Scotland-born Hamilton Burr scored on Super Rugby debut and Emoni Narawa touched down just on halftime as the Chiefs lead 19-7.
The Chiefs ran in six more tries as Moana Pasifika tired in the second half. Weber, Vaa'i and Pita Gus Sowakula were among the try-scorers as the Chiefs rammed home a significant territorial advantage
Moana Pasifika 12 (Tries: Neria Fomai, Joe Apikotoa. Cons: Christian Leallifano) Chiefs 59 (Tries: Tupou Vaa’I, Hamilton Burr, Brad Weber, Bryn Gatland, Jonah Lowe, Alex Nankivell, Pita Gus Sowakula, Emoni Narawa, Tyrone Thompson. Cons: Gatland 3, Ioane 4)
MOANA PASIFIKA: 15 William Havili 14 Tima Fainga’anuku 13 Levi Aumua 12 Danny Toala 11 Neria Foma’I 10 Christian Leali'ifano 9 Jonathan Taumateine 8 Henry Time-Stowers 7 Solomone Funaki 6 Sione Tu’ipulotu 5 Samuel Slade 4 Mik McKee 3 Sekope Kepu © 2 Luteru Tolai 1 Ezekiel Lindenmuth
RESERVES: 16 Samiuela Moli, 17 Taukiha’amea Koloamatagi, 18 Joe Apikotoa, 19 Alex McRobbie, 20 Josh Kaifa, 21 Ereatara Enari, 22 Lincoln McClutchie, 23 Fine Inisi
CHIEFS: 15 Kaleb Trask 14: Emoni Narawa 13: Alex Nankivell 12: Rameka Poihipi 11: Jonah Lowe 10: Bryn Gatland 9: Brad Weber 8: Pita Gus Sowakula 7: Hamilton Burr 6: Tupou Vaa’i 5: Brodie Retallick 4: Laghlan McWhannel 3: Sione Mafileo 2: Bradley Slater 1: Ollie Norris
Replacements: 16 Tyrone Thompson, 17 Atu Moli, 18 Solomone Tukuafu, 19 Samipeni Finau, 20 Josh Lord, 21 Rivez Reihana, 22 Josh Ioane 23 Quinn Tupaea
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe, Mike Winter