Chiefs 28 Bulls 12

After proving their quality with victories over Kiwi foes, the Chiefs have shown their mettle by winning when well below their best.

That was the generous interpretation, at least, after they laboured to another unflattering bonus-point win over another seemingly overmatched opponent.

A fortnight ago it was the Rebels and tonight it was the Bulls, with second straight late flurry needed to overcome and stuttering start and remain unbeaten.

These Chiefs have the ability to send Dave Rennie away with another title - the opening three weeks made that clear. But the coach must be bemused by what's happened to the team who were so impressive in toppling the defending champion Hurricanes on their last outing in Hamilton.

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They were certainly unrecognisable during a horrendous first half. The home side were outplayed in every facet by their visitors, who controlled possession, bossed field position and took a deserved lead through Handre Pollard's boot.

"I was really disappointed at halftime," Rennie said. "It's so much about standards and expectations. The score's irrelevant if we play really well and do what we say we're going to do."

Tonight that meant poor decision-making as the Chiefs continually kicked away the ball, allowing the Bulls to attack with great continuity. Forced to survive off scraps, the Chiefs then proceeded to throw those scraps away.

The Bulls were imposing themselves at the collision - there was no doubting that - and the ferocity with which they tackled certainly contributed to the error count. But many mistakes were about a deficiency in the Chiefs' skillset, leaving them in need of significant amendments in the second half.

Fortunately for the home side, those amendments were made, playing with more verve in the first 10 minutes alone as they hit the front through a try of true brilliance from Shaun Stevenson. Suddenly the Chiefs were punishing the Bulls for moments of poor discipline and the visitors defence was being seriously stretched, losing control of the contest for the first time all evening.

It was to the Bulls' credit - and perhaps an indictment of their opponents' attack - that the Chiefs initially opted to build their narrow lead through penalties, a strategy that proved sensible as untimely turnovers kept quashing attacks. But, gradually, the pressure began to mount and late tries from Damian McKenzie and Atu Moli saw their side secure an unlikely bonus point.

"I'm happy that we put the foot on the throat when it counted," Rennie said. "We're in good nick, and when we keep a bit of ball in hand and are prepared to play from deep we get a lot of confidence. I guess the question will be asked, where was that in the first half?"

The other question to emerge from the contest was surrounding the health of Sam Cane and Nepo Laulala. The pair suffered head knocks and an assessment will be made on their availability before the Chiefs fly to Africa on Monday.

Chiefs 28 (S. Stevenson, D. McKenzie, A. Moli tries; A. Cruden 3 pens, 2 cons)
Bulls 12 (H. Pollard 4 pens)
Halftime: 3-9