Hamilton - A much-improved scrum in the second half steered an ill-disciplined Chiefs to a 37-27 win over the Cheetahs in Hamilton on Saturday.
As it happened: Chiefs 37-27 Cheetahs
The Chiefs, the most penalised team in the competition, avoided the pitfall of fatigue that often hits New Zealand sides returning from South Africa, but they could not avoid the wrath of referee Craig Joubert.
Playing without regular hooker Hika Elliott, who was red-carded in last week's loss to the Coastal Sharks in Durban, the Chiefs gave away 15 penalties including two yellow cards.
The Cheetahs were only a point down at half-time, when the penalty count was 12-2 against the Chiefs, and levelled at 20-all 13 minutes into the second spell.
But when the Chiefs gained control up front Aaron Cruden was able to capitalise on a string of scrum penalties to go with their four tries.
"We've been training a different way and the Cheetahs have a fantastic maul and it took us a while to adapt to that," Chiefs captain Liam Messam said of the penalty count.
The bonus point win kept the Chiefs second behind the Wellington Hurricanes in the New Zealand conference, with five wins from seven games, while the Cheetahs remain at the bottom of the South African conference.
The Chiefs hit the front minutes after the kick-off when Mike Leitch, the New Zealander who captained Japan, gathered in a Sonny Bill Williams off-load to score handy to the posts.
Cruden added the extras before the penalties started to mount against the Chiefs, with Joe Pietersen landing two three-pointers to narrow the gap to one point.
Messam rammed his way through a maul to run 25 metres for the Chiefs' second try, again converted by Cruden before Boom Prinslow scored off a line out drive with Pietersen landing the conversion.
Pietersen was astray with a penalty on half-time that would have given the Cheetahs the lead and they conceded two scrum penalties soon after the resumption to let the Chiefs pull away to a 20-13 lead.
When Pietersen converted the first of Heinrich Brussow's two tries the scores were briefly level before the Chiefs pulled away with a further penalty by Cruden, who also converted tries by Sam Cane and Andrew Horrell.
With time on the clock Brussow scored his second try but it was not enough to get the Cheetahs in the points and they leave New Zealand with two losses after going down to the Canterbury Crusaders last week.Scorers:
Tries: Michael Leitch, Liam Messam, Sam Cane, Andrew Horrell
Conversions: Aaron Cruden (4)
Penalties: Cruden (3)
Tries: Boom Prinsloo, Heinrich Brussow (2)
Conversions: Joe Pietersen (2), Willie du Plessis
Penalties: Pietersen (2)
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Charlie Ngatai/Seta Tamanivalu, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Tom Marshall, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam (captain), 5 Michael Fitzgerald, 4 Matt Symons 3 Ben Tameifuna 2 Quentin MacDonald, 1 Pauliasi Manu
Substitutes: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Siate Tokolahi, 18 Mitchell Graham, 19 Michael Allardice, 20 Johan Bardoul, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Andrew Horrell, 23 Marty McKenzie
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Michael van der Spuy, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Joe Pietersen, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Boom Prinsloo, 7 Jean Cook, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Francois Uys (captain), 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Stephan Coetzee, 1 BG Uys
Substitutes: 16 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 17 Caylib Oosthuizen, 18 Danie Mienie, 19 Carl Wegner, 20 Willie Britz, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Willie du Plessis, 23 Rayno Benjamin