Chiefs hold on after fightback from 14-man Highlanders

Michael Thomas/AAP PHOTOS

Waikato Chiefs are in hot pursuit at the top of the Super Rugby standings after their 28-21 win over fellow New Zealand outfit Otago Highlanders in Hamilton.

The Chiefs powered into 21-0 halftime lead, taking advantage of the visitors being reduced to 14 men after centre Tanielu Tele'a was shown a red card in Saturday's clash.

Halfback Cortez Ratima extended their lead with a try 14 minutes after the break but the short-handed Highlanders battled back against the odds with three unanswered tries to narrow the gap to just seven points.

Daniel Rona opened the scoring for the Chiefs with an early try, before the home side's pack started taking advantage of a yellow card to Timoci Tavatavanawai with hooker Bradley Slater going over.

Tele'a was then yellow carded for a dangerous clean-out on Quinn Tupaea, with the punishment soon upgraded to a red.

Rameka Poihipi went over for another try before Ratima looked to have locked the door with his score.

But the Highlanders wouldn't lie down, with winger Tavatavanawai scoring just before the hour followed soon after by a yellow card to Chiefs' No.8 Luke Jacobson.

Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens and Nikora Broughton both scored to give the Chiefs a nervous finale as they had to hold on in the face of late pressure.