Super Rugby Pacific: Chiefs go top of the table thanks to bonus point victory over Moana Pasifika

The Chiefs have gone top of Super Rugby Pacific, thanks to a bonus point 52-29 victory over Moana Pasifika at Melbourne's AAMI Park.

However, it was a Jekyll and Hyde showing from the Chiefs, who were made to work despite a dominant first half.

Leading 38-3 at the break, the Chiefs were outscored 14-26 in the second 40 minutes, and had three separate players shown yellow cards.

Shaun Stevenson scored a hat-trick against Moana Pasifika.
Shaun Stevenson scored a hat-trick against Moana Pasifika. Photo credit: Getty Images

Still, led by a hat-trick to Shaun Stevenson and a double to Brad Weber, the Chiefs ran in eight tries as their attack flourished for the second week in succession.

Victory, combined with last week's win over the Crusaders, sends the Chiefs to the top of Super Rugby Pacific with 10 points, but could be caught by the Blues when they face the Brumbies at the same venue on Sunday.

In a rapid start to the first half, midfielder Rameka Poihipi wrote his name into the history books, and scored the fastest try in the history of Super Rugby.

From the opening kick-off, the second-five - playing in place of injured All Black Anton Lienert-Brown - intercepted a pass from Anzelo Tuitavuki, and crossed over inside the opening 10 seconds.

From there, it was one-way traffic inside a first half that saw the Chiefs score six tries in the first 40 minutes.

The Chiefs celebrate.
The Chiefs celebrate. Photo credit: Getty Images

A double to halfback Brad Weber, and tries to winger Liam Coombes-Fabling, fullback Shaun Stevenson and a solo-stunner to Damian McKenzie had the Chiefs scoring more than a point-a-minute, as the halftime siren sounded at 38-3.

But whatever coach Aaron Mauger said to his side at halftime clearly worked, as Moana Pasifika started the second half as the better of the two sides.

Winger Timoci Tavatavanawai crossed over in the 43rd minute, before the Chiefs were reduced to 14 for the first time when Weber was shown a yellow card for cynical play on the tryline.

The numerical advantage immediately paid off for Moana Pasifika, as hooker Samiuela Moli scored from the back of a lineout drive. 

Down a man, the Chiefs hit back immediately, as Stevenson added his second thanks to a stabbed kick through the defence by Alex Nankivell. 

Even back to 15 once Weber returned, the Chiefs were reduced again when his replacement, Cortez Ratima, was also sin-binned for not being back 10m after a Moana Pasifika penalty.

Again, Moana Pasifika immediately benefited from the extra man, and scored again from the resulting play, this time through No.7 Solomone Funaki.

Minutes later, Stevenson completed his hat-trick, this time latching on to a kick-through from Bryn Gatland, as the Chiefs passed 50.

But in a helter-skelter end to the night, the Chiefs were shown another yellow, as Gatland was binned for a deliberate knockdown, and Moana Pasifika awarded a penalty try.

Ultimately, though, the Chiefs were too far ahead for Moana Pasifika to contemplate a miracle comeback win, as the bonus point victory was effectively sealed before halftime.

The Chiefs can make it three wins from three next week, when they return to New Zealand for their first home game, against the so-far winless Highlanders.

Chiefs 52 (Poihipi, Coombes-Fabling, Weber 2, Stevenson 3, McKenzie tries; McKenzie 5, Gatland conversions)

Moana Pasifika 29 (Tavatavanawai, Moli, Funaki, penalty tries; Lealiifano 2 conversions; Lealiifano penalty)