The Chiefs have gone back to the top of the Super Rugby table, producing resilient defence on the way to a 23-13 win in Suva on Friday night over previous leaders the Crusaders.
In Super Rugby’s debut in Fiji, fullback Damien McKenzie landed a final-minute penalty for the “hosts” to deny the Crusaders a bonus point.
Rain fell through the day in Suva making for slippery conditions, but that didn’t inhibit either side from trying to throw the ball around.
The Chiefs had been knocked off the top of the table with their 45-25 defeat to the Waratahs before the June break.
They scored two tries to one in a typically physical encounter between two New Zealand sides and they completed the double over the Crusaders, having won their round-one clash in Christchurch.
It was the Crusaders, despite facing a breeze, who made much the better start and they virtually camped inside opposition territory in the opening quarter.
Fiji Test winger Nemani Nadolo looked fired-up for the occasion and continually looked for the ball to carry.
But the Chiefs produced some excellent scrambling and the Crusaders’ only reward was a 19th-minute Richie Mo’unga penalty.
The Chiefs hit back three minutes later, as Fiji-born new All Blacks centre Seta Tamanivalu’s well-weighted kick provided winger James Lowe with the try.
Whereas that effort came against the run of the play, the Chiefs’ second touchdown eight minutes from the interval was created out of nothing.
Deep in his own half, the mercurial McKenzie suddenly found a gap to step through and then off-loaded to send halfback Brad Weber over.
McKenzie landed his second conversion from wide out to go with an earlier penalty and the Chiefs had raced out to a 17-3 lead.
Right on halftime, the Crusaders finally breached the Chiefs defence and it came off an attack started by Nadolo and finished off by another Fijian on the other winger Jone Macilai.
McKenzie landed another penalty to edge the Chiefs out to 20-10 heading into the final quarter.
The Crusaders then twice turned down penalty shots at goal and instead went for the corner.
Twice the Chiefs repelled them, the second time with a breakdown steal from lock Brodie Retallick, who then set off on a goose-stepping run.
With six minutes to go and off another penalty, the Crusaders eventually went for the posts and Mo’unga landed the goal to make it a seven-point game, before McKenzie had the last say.