Chiefs make winning start to title defence
The Chiefs have begun the defence of their Super Rugby crown with a 41-27 win over the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Two tries to Tim Nanai-Williams and 21 points from the boot of Gareth Anscombe were more than enough to dent a disjointed challenge from the Highlanders.
Leading by just two points at halftime, despite playing much of the rugby, and trailing by three points with half an hour to go, second half tries to Patrick Osborne, Aseali Tikoirotuma and Nanai-Williams saw the defending champions take a bonus point victory.
An outstanding breakout out try to Kade Poki offered the Highlanders hope after halftime when he burst through Nanai-Williams' tackle and outpaced the defence to score arguably his best try for some time.
But when the game got loose, as it did midway through the second half, the Chiefs profited, with their dangerous runners making the most of some disorganised defence.
The Highlanders would have breathed a sigh of relief at being only two points down at halftime after struggling to get into the game.
Attacking raids were rare, with Ben Smith's outstanding hands netting him a try after a quick tap from Aaron Smith and a darting run by Lima Sopoaga.
Rather than settle the home team, it merely served to stir up the Chiefs who were finding it too easy to outflank the Highlanders.
An innocuous scrum on their own 10m line saw Tim Nanai-Williams run through a massive hole and scamper the best part of 60m, with the lack of combination between Ma'a Nonu and Phil Burleigh painfully evident.
The educated boot of Gareth Anscombe looked to have secured a handy halftime lead for the Chiefs before the Highlanders finally produced some cohesive rugby.
Good lead up work from Brayden Mitchell and John Hardie saw the ball swing back the other way for skipper Hosea Gear to score his sixth try in four games this year.
While Gear's try just before the break was welcome news for a rowdy 17,511-strong crowd at Forsyth Barr Stadium, the sight of Nasi Manu limping off wasn't.
The Highlanders will look back on a game where their set piece was put under too much pressure and they allowed the Chiefs to run far too far.
Chiefs 41 (Tim Nanai-Wiliams 2, Patrick Osborne, Aseali Tikoirotuma tries; Gareth Anscombe 5 pen, 3 con) Highlanders 27 (Ben Smith, Hosea Gear, Kade Poki tries; Lima Sopoaga 3 con, 2 pen)