Cape Town - The Bulls threatened to pull off a famous win against the Chiefs in Hamilton on Friday, but they blew a 14-point half-time lead to go down 41-28.
As it happened: Chiefs v Bulls
As was the case last week against the Reds, the Bulls went scoreless in the second half after having dominated the first.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, scored 27 unanswered points after the break.
It was a scintillating ball-in-hand performance from the visitors at times as they ran in four tries in the opening period to take a 28-14 lead into half-time.
More impressive was the quality of the tries from the Bulls, and despite their third straight loss in the competition they have clearly come a long way under John Mitchell this year.
They ran out of puff badly, though, and just didn't have enough in the tank to keep up with the 2012 and 2013 tournament champions.
The Bulls were superb from the very beginning and scored what was possibly the try of the game inside three minutes.
Having moved the ball quickly off the top of a lineout, the Bulls backline executed a move of precision that saw Jesse Kriel pop the ball inside to Travis Ismael.
It then went through the hands, where Warrick Gelant finished off down the left.
The Chiefs hit back soon after, though, as Johnny Fa'auli capitalised on a loose ball, making it 7-7 after 10 minutes.
Bulls wing Divan Rossouw then scored back-to-back tries as the visitors continued to impress with ball in hand.
Rossouw's first came as a result of a strong finish down the left after an attacking lineout, while his second was a result of a line break from Kriel.
Flyhalf Handre Pollard, meanwhile, had his kicking boots on as the Bulls stretched their lead to 21-7.
A period of sustained attack saw the Chiefs hit back with a try that relied on short bursts from the forwards before Brodie Retallick went over to make it 21-14.
That was the boost the hosts needed just before half-time, but moments later the Bulls had their 14-point lead back.
This time, the counter attack was sublime as replacement scrumhalf Embrose Papier gathered a poor Chiefs kick and made the break.
He found Kriel, who had a massively influential half, who in turn found a charging Pollard who scored under the sticks.
When the Springbok playmaker knocked over his fourth successive conversion, the Bulls had a healthy 28-14 lead that they would take into the break.
The Chiefs needed a fast start after half-time, and that it was they got.
It came through the forwards once again in somewhat uncharacteristic fashion as Mitchell Brown crashed over from close range.
28-21 ahead, the Bulls then turned down an opportunity to kick three points from bang in front, opting instead to set up another attacking lineout.
They threatened to score, but lost the ball as the Chiefs struck again.
It was a more familiar sight this time as the Chiefs attacked without fear, spreading the ball wide as they stretched the Bulls' defence. It was Retallick, once more, who finished off the move.
McKenzie missed the conversion, but the Chiefs were right back in it just 28-26 down.
The Bulls thought they had scored through Papier just minutes later, but television replays revealed that lock RG Snyman had caused an obstruction.
With the game having been played at such a frantic pace, it was always going to be a big ask for the Bulls going into the final quarter.
The Chiefs hit the front for the first time in the match on 62 minutes, taking a 29-28 lead through a McKenzie penalty.
A yellow card for replacement prop Conraad van Vuuren on 68 minutes made it even more difficult for the Bulls, who struggled to get hold of the ball in the last 10 minutes.
When Solomon Alaimalo gathered a cross kick to score the Chiefs’ fifth, the Bulls were buried.
Anton Lienert-Brown scored after the hooter to put the finishing touches on the home side's win.
In next weekend’s action the Bulls, who remain third in the South African Conference, take on the Crusaders in Christchurch next Friday, March 23 at 08:35 SA time.
The Chiefs meanwhile moved to fourth in the New Zealand Conference and will travel to Tokyo in next weekend's Round 6 action to play the Sunwolves (Saturday, March 24 at 06:15 SA time).
Tries: Johnny Fa'auli, Brodie Retallick (2), Mitchell Brown, Solomon Alaimalo, Anton Lienert-Brown
Conversions: Damian McKenzie (4)
Tries: Warrick Gelant, Divan Rossouw (2), Handre Pollard
Conversions: Handre Pollard (4)
15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Johnny Fa'auli, 11 Solomon Alaimalo, 10 Tiaan Falcon, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Sam Cane (captain), 6 Lachlan Boshier, 5 Mitchell Brown, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Aidan Ross
Substitutes: 16 Liam Polwart, 17 Karl Tu'inukuafe, 18 Jeff Thwaites, 19 Michael Allardice, 20 Luke Jacobson, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Marty McKenzie, 23 Declan O'Donnell
15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal (captain), 11 Divan Rossouw, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Andre Warner, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Pierre Schoeman
Substitutes: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Conraad van Vuuren, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Johnny Kotze