Chiefs run in six tries to over-rule Lions
The Chiefs are back in the Super Rugby New Zealand Conference hunt after a 38-8 home victory over the Lions, but they still have some work to do to rediscover their fluidity.
The six tries to one victory in front of 11,168 at Waikato Stadium put the Chiefs back on top in the conference with the Hurricanes having the chance later in the night to regain that lead in Sydney.
But for the home side in Hamilton this was exactly what they needed. Not always clinical, they still managed to finish well enough to score three tries each half and with more players due to return from injury in the next few weeks it sets them up for their match against the Blues in New Plymouth next Friday night.
It was a stuttering first half dominated by the four officials, with a lot of stoppages and four visits to the TMO.
But the Chiefs scored three unanswered tries in the second quarter to lead 19-3 at the break and get within a sniff of their bonus point.
The TMO visits brought positive results twice for the Chiefs, but twice resulted in tries turned down, the second of those ruling out what looked like a fair and impressive touchdown to 21-year-old hooker Nathan Harris in the left corner.
TMO Ben Skeen, however, decided prop Josh Hohneck had obstructed as Chiefs halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow broke from the final ruck to set Harris on his storming run to the line when in reality he didn't appear to have effected play in any meaningful way.
At that stage the Chiefs had one try on the board through first-five Gareth Anscombe after winger Dwayne Sweeney and fullback Tim Nanai-Williams had provided the spark on attack in the lead-up, but two tries were given the green light by Skeen in the final three minutes of the first half.
The first went to centurion flanker Tanerau Latimer after a big break by centre Charlie Ngatai and then Ngatai himself got one after Nanai-Williams was tackled and the Lions ripped the ball loose in the ruck for the big centre to pounce.
After a shaky start to the scrums the Chiefs settled down at set-piece time and their attack always looked much more penetrative than the visitors, who did try to move the ball wide at every opportunity.
It took the Chiefs less than three minutes of the second spell to get their bonus point through loosehead prop Pauliasi Manu after Anscombe slid a kick through for replacement centre Bundee Aki and Anscombe turned it into a 26-3 lead with his conversion.
But the home side got a quick reminder not to get complacent over their lead when winger Courtnall Skosal scored from a scrum soon after.
It took 25 minutes before the next points were put on the board despite plenty of endeavour from the Chiefs, with their clinical finish still lacking until the home replacements started to make their presence felt.
Aki scored the fifth try for the Chiefs nine minutes from the end from an Andrew Horrell nudge through, which again the TMO had a say in, and the floodgates threatened to open.
They did with Sweeney having an impressive attacking run to the right before 15 phases ended in Nanai-Williams dancing through from first receiver to score on the other side of the field for the final try.
Chiefs 38 (Gareth Anscombe, Tanerau Latimer, Charlie Ngatai, Pauliasi Manu, Bundee Aki, Tim Nanai-Williams tries; Anscombe 3, Andrew Horrell conversions) Lions 8 (Courtnall Skosal try; Elton Jantjes penalty goal). HT: 19-3