Super Rugby Aotearoa 2021: Jona Nareki hat-trick inspires Highlanders home over Chiefs

Flying winger Jona Nareki has inspired an incredible Highlanders comeback to snatch a 39-23 victory over the Chiefs in their Super Rugby Aotearoa clash at Hamilton.

With his side trailling 20-6 after half an hour, Nareki sparked a huge momentum switch in the contest, gathering a deflected chip kick on his own goal-line and sprinting the length of the field for the Highlanders' opening try.

Two more would follow, but perhaps his most telling contribution came in the second half, when he latched onto another loose ball in his own territory and bumped Chiefs defenders - notably All Blacks skipper Sam Cane and international halfback Brad Weber - before sending Shannon Frizell across for the go-ahead score.

A few moments later, Nareki's second try probably put the result beyond doubt, but his third provided the icing on the cake, with the Chiefs' only answer to the onslaught a solitary second-half penalty.

The home side looked well in control of the match through the opening 30 minutes, when their opponents' persistent offending at the breakdown saw centre Sio Tomkinson and captain Ash Dixon both dispatched to the sin bin.

The Chiefs took full toll with their one-man advantage, running in tries to Luke Jacobson and Damian McKenzie.

But Nareki's blow before the break proved the game-changer and left the northerners staring at an unwanted place in Super Rugby history.

Sunday will mark the one-year anniversary of the Chiefs' last Super Rugby win - against the Waratahs at Wollongong - and their 10th consecutive defeat leaves them just one short of the Highlanders' competition record, set in 2012-13. 

To avoid that mark, they must somehow overcome the four-time champion Crusaders in Christchurch next Saturday, while the Highlanders visit the Blues on Sunday.

Highlanders 39 (Nareki 3, Frizell & Fakatava tries; Ioane 4 conversions & 2 penalties) Chiefs 23 (Jacobson & McKenzie tries; McKenzie 2 conversions & 3 penalties)

Join us at 4:30pm Sunday for live updates of the Crusaders v Hurricanes Super Rugby Aotearoa clash