The Chiefs came back from the proverbial death to earn a thrilling 31-all draw with the Highlanders in Dunedin on Saturday.
The Highlanders remain third in the New Zealand conference, 11 points behind the Hurricanes – who sit six points in arrears of competition leading Crusaders.
The Highlanders twice held a substantial lead, only for the Chiefs to come charging back.
Big prop Ta’avao scored twice in the second half as the Chiefs clawed their way back from a 12-28 deficit in the final quarter of a fast-flowing clash.
With less than two minutes on the clock Josh Ioane slotted a penalty for a seven-point lead, yet the Chiefs reclaimed the restart and worked their way over the tryline for the most unlikely draw.
The Highlanders and Chiefs traded tries in the first half, with the Dunedin-based franchise turning with a 14-12 lead.
That blew out to 28-12 – following tries from Matt Faddes and James Lentjes, before the Chiefs’ storming three-try finish, with Tyler Ardron also touching down alongside the double from Ta’avao.
But despite the strong close, Chiefs scrumhalf Brad Weber was not happy.
“It’s not great,” Weber said.
“We wanted to win and thought we were in with a serious chance in the dying minutes.
“But what a battle,” he added.
Man of the match: Luke Jacobson was a real workhorse for the Chiefs, while Anton Lienert-Brown was again their biggest threat in the backline. You don’t have to look much further than Jackson Hemopo and Luke Whitelock as candidates from the Highlanders pack. Then there was the Smith duo of Ben and Aaron behind the forwards. However, the Highlanders’ young flyhalf Josh Ioane showed the embarrassment in riches New Zealand has at No.10. His ability to read the game, create opportunities for his outside backs and a decent kicking game won him our award. Not the finished product, but a promising and talented player worth keeping an eye on.
For the Highlanders:
Tries: Ioane, B Smith, Faddes, Lentjes
Cons: Ioane 4
For the Chiefs:
Tries: Weber, Jacobson, Ta’avao 2, Ardron
Cons: McKenzie 3