The Chiefs came back from 16-7 down at half-time to defeat the Highlanders 21-19 in Hamilton on Saturday.
The Chiefs grabbed the opening try via a textbook score out wide from Tim Nanai-Williams but, as was the case in Christchurch last week, the champions were made to live off scraps of possession and spent most of the first 40 minutes pinned in their own half.
The Highlanders pack shut the hosts out with some classic driving play and were rewarded with a try in the 32nd minute as John Hardie touched down.
Chiefs skipper Liam Messam muscled his way over early in the second half to reduce the deficit to just two points heading into the final half-hour as the Chiefs turned up the tempo.
Lima Sopoaga's fourth penalty gave the Highlanders a five-point lead on the hour mark but the Chiefs hit back in brilliant fashion as Asaeli Tikoirotuma collected Aaron Cruden's kick to the touchline before offloading to Charlie Ngatai, who finished in the corner.
Chiefs – Tries: Tim Nanai-Williams, Liam Messam, Charlie Ngatai. Conversions: Aaron Cruden (3).
Highlanders – Try: John Hardie. Conversion: Lima Sopoaga. Penalties: Sopoaga (4).
Chiefs – 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden (c), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Nick Crosswell, 5 Matt Symons, 4 Michael Fitzgerald, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Mahroni Schwalger, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Subs: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Jamie Mackintosh, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Tevita Koloamatangi, 20 Liam Squire, 21 Brad Webber, 22 Andrew Horrell, 23 James Lowe.
Highlanders – 15 Ben Smith, 14 Richard Buckman, 13 Winston Stanley, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Malakai Fekitoa, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 John Hardie, 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Chris King, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Kane Hames.
Subs: 16 Brayden Mitchell, 17 Matias Diaz, 18 Craig Millar, 19 Josh Bekhuis, 20 Shane Christie, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Trent Renata, 23 Phil Burleigh.
Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images