Super Rugby: The Chiefs secure bonus-point win over the Highlanders
The Chiefs got their title defence off to an impressive start as they beat the Highlanders 41-27 in Dunedin.
Last Updated: 22/02/13 9:34am
It was a rip-roaring start to their campaign and the match could have gone either way before the Chiefs finally edged clear deep into the second half.
Both sides played with adventure and attacking intent, with seven tries scored in total - and three or four contenders for the try of the season award.
Tim Nanai-Williams scored two absolute crackers for the defending champions - with his second sealing the bonus point and putting the game beyond the hosts - while Patrick Osborne and Asaeli Tikoirotuma also crossed.
Gareth Anscombe weighed in with 21 points on his debut for the Chiefs following his move from the Blues - and looked a class act in attack.
Ben Smith, Hosea Gear and Kade Poke all crossed for the Highlanders, while Lima Sopoaga slotted over 12 points.
However despite leading 27-21 after an hour, they just couldn't hold on - although they will be pleased with plenty of aspects of their play.
The Chiefs had opened the scoring through the boot of Anscombe before the Highlanders crossed for the first try after 12 minutes.
Smith finished off a sustained spell of pressure brilliantly, with the full-back picking the ball up off his boots from Sopoaga's offload before spinning out the tackle to score. Sopoaga converted.
The Chiefs' response was immediate as Nanai-Williams scored an amazing individual try as he exploited a gap in the midfield, goose-stepped past Smith and sprinted clear.
Anscombe converted and then added two penalties to put the Chiefs into a commanding lead.
The Highlanders hit back before the break, though, with poor defending allowing Gear to score. The winger stepped inside two players before brushing aside Hika Elliot. Sopoaga converted to cut the deficit to two points at the break.
The deficit became a lead two minutes into the second half as Sopoaga added a penalty only for the Chiefs to cross again - with superb hands from Anscombe sending Osborne over for his first Super Rugby try.
The lead was short-lived, though, as more weak defending - this time from Nanai-Williams - allowed Poki to breakaway to score. Sopoaga slotted over the conversion and a penalty to make it 27-21.
The Chiefs were back in front on the hour-mark when Liam Messam and Augustine Pulu combined to send Tikoirotuma over, with Anscombe adding the conversion.
The game was wide open, with both teams throwing the ball about. And it was the Chiefs that profited. John Hardie was guilty of coughing up position just outside the Chiefs 22 and Nanai-Williams scooped the ball up, showed the goose step again before accelerating down the touchline for the decisive try.
Anscombe converted and then added two more penalties to put the game out of sight.