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Chiefs 23 Highlanders 39
Chiefs - Jacobson & McKenzie tries; McKenzie 2 conversions & 3 penalties
Highlanders - Nareki 3, Frizell & Fakatava tries; Ioane 4 conversions & 2 penalties
40th minute - Highlanders going one-off to kill the clock and eventually Ioane finds touch, as the siren sounds.
That's an incredible turnaround by the southerners, who appeared out of the running at 20-6 down midway through the first half.
The Chiefs are now one loss away from the Highlanders' record 11 straight - and they face the four-time champion Crusaders next week.
39th minute - Chiefs are penalised for closing space at the lineout. Highlanders take a scrum to soak up some time.
38th minute - Chiefs are scrambling, Roe is searching for the line and when the ball goes loose, Nanai-Seturo scoops it up to touch down.
There's a lot to review here and Aaron Smith officially lodges a captain's challenge, alleging foul play against a Chiefs player.
Replays show Mitch Brown leading with his elbow in a tackle, so he's penalised.
37th minute - Nankivell makes a break, but his offload is spilled forward and Tomkinson is penalised for holding Stevenson back.
36th minute - Jacobson breaks from a defensive Chiefs scrum and they win a clearing penalty. It won't help them at this stage.
From the lineout, McKenzie evades a couple of tackles to spark an attack.
34th minute - Nareki makes another break out left, but his inside pass is spilled, with the line beckoning.
32nd minute - Xavier Roe replaces Weber at halfback for the Chiefs, his Super Rugby debut.
Another crooker Slater throw to a lineout compounds the Chiefs' plight.
29th minute - Another lineout drive coming here - they haven't succeeded with one yet.
Eventually, Smith breaks left and...
TRY to Jona Nareki
Stevenson rushes forward to tackle Hunt, but misses the hit and Hunt throws a long pass for Nareki, who has too much pace out wide. His touchdown is reviewed, but it's solid.
Ioane bends his conversion between the posts, Highlanders 39-23
28th minute - Anton Lienert-Brown knocks just outside his own 22 and the Highlanders have an attacking opportunity. They win a penalty from the scrum and kick to the corner.
25th minute - Slater feeds a better lineout this time and the forwards drive towards the line. Williams blows a penalty in midfield and McKenzie points to the posts.
McKenzie slots the penalty, Highlanders 32-23
24th minute - Big Chiefs scrum wins a penalty in midfield. McKenzie kicks for touch inside the 22.
23rd minute - Brad Slater feeds the Chiefs lineout, but it's not straight. They've gone completely off the boil.
22nd minute - Chiefs applying the pressure, but Highlanders snaffle up the loose ball and Hunt clears upfield.
20th minute - Norris makes a half break and finds Karpik, but he spills the ball in a tackle. A host of substitutes include All Blacks Liam Coltman and Liam Squire for the Highlanders.
Bryn Gatland is pulled by the Chiefs, Shaun Stevenson will go to fullback and McKenzie to first five.
17th minute - TRY to Jona Nareki
Nareki is cutting the Chiefs to ribbons. He fends off Anton Lienert-Brown and outpaces the defence out right to score his second try of the night.
Ioane slots the conversion from out wide, Highlanders 32-20
16th minute - Aaron Smith has replaced Fakatava and probably an ideal man to inspire the Highlanders at this stage of a game.
13th minute - TRY to Shannon Frizell
Nareki gathers a bouncing ball inside his own half and slices through the Chiefs defence, bumping off Cane and Weber, before offloading to Frizell, who powers over. Great try to take the lead!
Ioane converts, Highlanders 25-20
Eighth minute - Taavao replaces Mafileo in the Chiefs front row.
Highlanders lineout still can't find the tryline, but the forwards take the ball towards the posts.
TRY to Folau Fakatava
Highlanders have another penalty advantage - and they're mounting - but Fakatava dumiies and finds a path to the line. That probably spares the Chiefs a yellow card.
Ioane converts, Chiefs 20-18
Seventh minute - Frizell wins the lineout and the Highlanders drive, with Dixon at the back. He's driven back in a tackle, but Highlanders have an advantage.
Eventually, the ball comes right and is spilled, so Williams brings them back for a penalty.
Hunt declines the kick at goal again and finds touch in the corner.
Sixth minute - Dixon turns the ball over inside the Chiefs 22 and as the move continues, the Highlanders have a penalty seven metres out from the tryline. Daniel Lienert-Brown is down injured.
He leaves the field with an arm-shoulder injury, replaced by Josh Hohneck. Highlanders find touch for an attacking lineout.
Fifth minute - Garden-Bachop spills the ball in a tackle and the Chiefs break out of their 22.
Fourth minute - Nanai-Seturo puts the Chiefs back on attack, but Frizell forces them into a midfield penalty and the Highlandes have a lineout inside the 22.
Third minute - McKenzie makes a break from his own 22 and give Nanai-Seturo some space out left, but Harmon dominates the tackle and wins a penalty in his own half.
First minute - From the restart, two knock-ons give the Chiefs a midfield scrum. No changes at the break and Dixon has returned to the field from the sin bin.
40th minute - Fakatava throws a long, forward-looking pass right and Garden-Bachop is taken out in midair as he tries to gather it. No call from Williams.
Play contines after the siren, with the Highlanders putting together phases.
Chiefs defending grimly, Ioane finds half a gap, but is dragged down.
Ioane does find space, but the Chiefs win advantage at a breakdown, McKenzie chips and chases, but eventually the ball goes forward and the half ends.
39th minute - Weber knocks on at the breakdown in his own half and the Highlanders have another attacking opportunity before halftime.
38th minute - Ioane's long attempt falls short and the Chiefs clear.
37th minute - Fakatava has to throw the ball into a lineout, with his hooker off the field.
McKenzie threatens to break into the Highlanders half, but the Chiefs are penalised about 40m out. Ioane steps forward again...
36th minute - Williams warns the Highlanders for delaying the game, burning off seconds, while Dixon is off the field.
33rd minute - TRY to Jona Nareki
Chiefs take another scrum inside the 22, but Weber's chip kick towards the line is picked off by Nareki, who sprints length of the field to score. Lowe was chasing, but couldn't catch him.
Ioane slices his conversion attempt, Chiefs 20-11
31st minute - Lowe puts McKenzie away down the right side, but when the move breaks down, there's a double blast on the whistle. Dixon is penalised at the breakdown and is marched for persistent offending.
Tomkinson has only just returned, so the Highlanders are a man short again.
29th minute - TRY to Damien McKenzie
Jacobson detaches off the back of the scrum and lunges for the line. Highlanders are called for another offside and possible yellow card, but the Chiefs continue to drive at the line and when the ball comes right, McKenzie finds the space to score.
McKenzie converts his own try, Chiefs 20-6
Highlanders lucky not to lose another man there.
27th minute - Jacobson makes a big run up midfield, deep into Highlanders territory. Eventually, Williams gives a penalty in front of the posts, five metres from the tryline.
With Highlanders still short-handed, the Chiefs take the scrum...
26th minute - Highlanders have a penalty advantage inside the Chiefs half. Eventually, Williams brings them back to midfield on the 22 and Ioane steps forward.
Ioane slots the penalty from in front, Chiefs 13-6
21st minute - TRY to Luke Jacobson
From the scrum, Anton Lienert-Brown takes the first pass and lunges close to the line. From the second phase, Jacobson is next cab off the rank and plunges over.
McKenzie converts, Chiefs 13-3
20th minute - McKenzie takes clearing kick near halfway and sends Nanai-Seturo on a scything run. Ah Kuoi and Weber carry the movement on, and eventually the Chiefs have a penalty five metres out.
Williams has called out Sio Tomkinson, after a series of penalties, and he's yellow-carded. The Highlanders are a man down and desperately defending now.
Chiefs take a scrum...
19th minute - Weber puts in a speculator from his own half and finds touch a few metres out from the Highlanders line.
17th minute - From the lineout, Mitch Hunt makes a midfield break, but Nareki is pushed out a few metres from the tryline.
16th minute - Ioane's kickoff is allowed to bounce and finds touch about 10m out from the tryline.
From the lineout and a couple of phases, Gatland clears his own line and finds touch on the 10m mark.
15th minute - Cane has a pass picked off in midfield, but Williams is playing advantage. From the tap, the Highlanders are guilty of a high tackle and then offside, and eventually play comes back for the fist offence, which is in midfield.
McKenzie lines up another kick and slots it to reclaim the lead. Chiefs 6-3
11th minute - From the kickoff, Highlanders try to clear, but Jonah Lowe charges down for a lineout in the 22.
Ninth minute - Highlanders win a penalty in the Chiefs half and Fakatava takes a quick tap. They make ground into the 22 and win another penalty for not releasing in the tackle, a chance to equalise.
Ioane lines up from just right of the posts and slots the penalty. Chiefs 3 Highlanders 3
Seventh minute - Highlanders win a scrum, but the Chiefs steal the ball. They're penalised at the breakdown and Highlanders can clear their half.
Sixth minute - Chiefs have an advantage in their own half for offside, but they break over halfway, before losing the ball forward.
Fifth minute - Fakatava tries to spark a breakout and the Highlanders have a penalty on halfway for a Chiefs player (Luke Jacobson) leaving their feet at the breakdown.
Ioane lines up a kick for goal just inside halfway, but swings it left.
First minute - Immediate penalty at the breakdown, directly in front of the posts for McKenzie. Mikaele-Tu'u not releasing the ball with Cane over the top.
McKenzie slots the goal to give the Chiefs an early lead. Chiefs 3-0
Kickoff - Brilliant night in Hamilton, small crowd under Alert Level 2, but we have rugby!
Paul Williams will referee the clash. He blows for kickoff, with Bryn Gatland doing honours for the Chiefs.
Kia ora, good evening and welcome to Newshub's live coverage of the Super Rugby Aotearoa clash between the Chiefs and Highlanders at Hamilton's FMG Stadium.
The Chiefs have gone almost an entire year to the day since their last Super Rugby win - it came last March 6 against the Waratah at Wollongong.
At that stage, they were looking good, with wins over the Crusaders and Blues, but completely fell away after the COVID-19 Alert Level 4 lockdown to finish at the bottom of the revamped domestic competition.
They had the first-round bye to start the 2021 competition and will be desperate to give acting coach Clayton McMillan a win in his debut at this level.
The Highlanders pushed the Crusaders in a southern derby last week, but squandered several kicking chances to impose themselves on the scoreboard, as they searched for an elusive go-ahead try.
They also have a new coach this season - local hero Tony Brown - and finished one above the Chiefs on last year's table. This looms as an early indication of who might take this year's wooden spoon.
The encounter will take place under Alert Level 2, with no spectators allowed in the stadium tonight.
Highlanders: 1-Daniel Lienert-Brown, 2-Ash Dixon (cc), 3-Siate Tokolahi, 4- Josh Dickson, 5-Jack Regan, 6-Shannon Frizell, 7-Billy Harmon, 8-Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, 9-Folau Fakatava, 10-Josh Ioane, 11-Jona Nareki, 12-Patelesio Tomkinson, 13-Ngatungane Punivai, 14-Connor Garden-Bachop, 15-Mitch Hunt
Reserves: 16-Liam Coltman,17-Josh Hohneck, 18-Jeff Thwaites, 19-Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 20-Liam Squire, 21-Aaron Smith (cc), 22-Solomon Alaimalo, 23-Hugh Renton
Chiefs: 1-Reuben O’Neill, 2-Samisoni Taukei’aho, 3-Sione Mafileo, 4-Tupou Vaa’i, 5-Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 6-Samipeni Finau, 7-Sam Cane (cc), 8-Luke Jacobson, 9-Brad Weber (cc), 10-Bryn Gatland, 11-Etene Nanai-Seturo, 12-Anton Lienert-Brown, 13-Sean Wainui, 14-Jonah Lowe, 15-Damian McKenzie
Reserves: 16-Bradley Slater, 17-Ollie Norris, 18-Angus Ta’avao, 19-Mitchell Brown, 20-Mitchell Karpik, 21-Xavier Roe, 22-Alex Nankivell, 23-Shaun Stevenson
TAB odds: Chiefs $1.64, Highlanders $2.17
Chiefs hitting Super Rugby with point to prove
The Chiefs are approaching the 2021 Super Rugby Aotearoa season with a point to prove, after a winless campaign last year.
Under Warren Gatland, the Chiefs slumped to eight consecutive losses - nine if you count pre-COVID-19 break - in the inaugural tournament, finishing the season licking their wounds at the bottom of the table.
But 2021 is a fresh start for the Hamilton-based franchise under new coach Clayton McMillan, who is stepping into Gatland's shoes, with the latter absent with the British & Irish Lions.
McMillan's first game in charge takes place on Friday - without fans because of COVID-19 Alert Level 2 conditions - against the Highlanders, at Hamilton's FMG Stadium.
And one of their star players - All Black midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown - admits the squad is wearing a "chip on their shoulder", after the disappointing campaign of 2020.
"[With] last season in general, there is a little bit of a chip on my shoulder," Lienert-Brown says.
"I'm sure it’s the same for a lot of the boys who were part of this team last year.
"It's not something we want to hide from.
"We realise last season was disappointing, but this season is a new opportunity.
"We've got a lot of pride to put back into the jersey. We've been working really hard, we're at a good point, and hopefully, we can do that this Friday."
A bad side of history awaits the Chiefs, if they open their campaign with two losses. They would join the 2012-13 Highlanders, who lost 11 straight Super Rugby games, and with the daunting prospect of visiting the champion Crusaders in Christchurch next week, they must begin their season style on Friday.
"People will make a lot more of it outside our group," says Chiefs assistant coach David Hill.
"The challenge for us this week is to focus on our preparations and do everything we need to do come Friday night."
Hill confirms All Black utility back Damian McKenzie will be available for selection, after recovering from a minor foot injury last week.