Chiefs beat Highlanders in Super Rugby

Composure in the closing minutes has earned the Chiefs a hard-fought 27-22 Super Rugby win over the Highlanders in Hamilton.

In a tight game, with both teams scoring three tries apiece, the Highlanders pushed right to the final whistle on Saturday despite lagging behind the Chiefs in terms of possession and territory.

The Chiefs dominated large chunks of the match but it took a couple of key lineout takes against the throw in the closing minutes to wrap up the win against a stubborn Highlanders outfit.

The visitors suffered an early blow with the loss of fly-half Lima Sopoaga after just five minutes due to what looked like a lower calf or achilles tendon injury.

Replacement Fletcher Smith slotted in efficiently but it was the Chiefs who controlled possession and led 6-0 after 20 minutes via two Damian McKenzie penalties.

The Highlanders made the most of their chances three minutes later, Rob Thompson's perfectly placed cross-kick finding Waisake Naholo on the right wing for a classic finish out wide.

Smith nailed the extras and the visitors seized an unlikely lead given their lack of possession and territory.

The lead lasted almost until the break, with the Chiefs' dominance at scrum time wearing down the Highlanders before the home team struck in the 38th minute.

McKenzie, running the show from fly-half, punched in another well-timed cross-kick, Toni Pulu leaped high to tap back for fullback Solomon Alaimalo to touch down.

The conversion gave the Chiefs a 13-7 lead at the break, a margin they extended just three minutes after the restart when hooker Nathan Harris muscled his way over from close range.

Still struggling for parity up front, the Highlanders battled their way back with a 51st minute try to Tevita Li, halfback Aaron Smith finding the wing lurking out wide with a pinpoint pass.

A Fletcher Smith penalty narrowed the lead to just five with 20 minutes remaining, with the Highlanders then capitalising on a wayward McKenzie kick with quick hands to send Sio Tomkinson over in the 62nd minute.

The visitors' 22-20 lead lasted just six minutes as the Chiefs' built phases and showed impressive patience before unleashing Sean Wainui out wide for the winning try.

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