Chiefs 46 Waratahs 31

If they weren't about to spend a month on the sidelines, it would be tempting to say the Chiefs were rounding into form at just the right time.

But even though the Super Rugby playoffs remain some distance on the horizon, tonight's victory over the Waratahs would have been particularly pleasing for coach Dave Rennie.

Having asked his side to express themselves more in attack, Rennie would have been a happy man watching on from the coaches' box, with the Chiefs displaying more enterprise in the first 10 minutes than they managed in their disappointing draw against the Blues last week.

They finished with six tries, as James Lowe scored a hat-trick and Tawera Kerr-Barlow grabbed a brace, and displayed enough fluidity with ball in hand that they could have easily had a few more.

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"I thought we attacked really well, which was something we were keen to do," Rennie said. "We've been a bit loose around our attack but...we gave the ball a bit of air and played a bit wider. We scored some good tries and applied a lot of pressure."

The win enhanced the Chiefs' chances of finishing second in the Kiwi conference, a position that would be rewarded in the playoffs with a trip to Australia - rather than the Republic. Next Friday's encounter with the Hurricanes could determine that spot and Rennie didn't undersell the importance of that match.

"It's massive," he said. "And the Hurricanes will be well aware of it as well. If we can win that, we're in the driver's seat."

Rennie's men rarely left the driver's seat against the Waratahs, repeatedly carving through the Waratahs defensive line and connecting with enough offloads to suggest it was always going to be their night.

Lowe and Damian McKenzie were especially elusive throughout, each racking up more than 100 metres in the first half alone and combining for a spectacular second try after Mitch Brown had put the Chiefs in front early.

Rennie called Lowe "sensational" while McKenzie was a constant menace in all parts of the field, appearing both influential at first receiver and lethal in the wide channels. It was a performance that showed the 22-year-old just keeps improving on the high standards set last season and, given the accuracy of his boot, also illustrated why McKenzie must be a strong contender for a spot on the All Blacks' bench.

And it was certainly too much for the Waratahs to contain, let alone replicate. The visitors struggled to threaten in the slightest throughout the first half, never enjoying enough possession in the right part of the field to build any pressure and initially shut down by a dominant defensive effort from the Chiefs.

Their solidity without the ball would have left the hosts rather relaxed with their 15-point halftime lead, a level of comfort that increased immediately after the break when a quick-fire double showcased the Chiefs at their best.

Tries for Lowe and Kerr-Barlow came courtesy of canny passes and timely support play, appearing to kill off the contest but instead causing something of a mental lapse that eventually cost a bonus point.

McKenzie made his first mistake of the match and the resulting intercept try sparked the Waratahs' best spell, scoring three more including a staggering solo run by prop Sekope Kepu. But the result was never in doubt after Kerr-Barlow had scored his second, set up, appropriately enough, by Stephen Donald in his 100th Chiefs appearance.

Chiefs 46 (M. Brown, J. Lowe 3, T. Kerr-Barlow 2 tries; D. McKenzie 2 pens, 5 cons)
Waratahs 31 (R. Horne, W. Skelton, C. Clark, S. Kepu tries; B. Foley pen, 4 cons)
Halftime: 18-3