It was a classic game, one to remember for an age, but it didn't play out the way anyone expected.

It ended up being a touch ridiculous in how it became such a clichéd game of two halves. But it really was – there is no other way to describe it given the Chiefs were 42-0 up at half-time and the Highlanders seemingly a sorry, broken mess only for the Southern men to bounce back emphatically in the second 40.

It was breathless, frantic and at times brilliant. The crowd can't complain about the value of their entertainment – it was relentless and genuinely thrilling.

The Chiefs will know that they won thanks to their precision in the first half when they took advantage of a stiff breeze and their own excellent attitude.


They were direct, determined and clinical from the start – scoring after two minutes and then never looking back.

It took a further 12 minutes for the Chiefs to seemingly end any hope of there being any kind of genuine contest.

They scored another two tries in that time and pretty much knocked the wind out of the Highlanders.

Actually what they did was instill a sense of doom in the Highlanders as once they were three tries down, they disintegrated into a bumbling mess.

Not one thing went right for them. They could hardly make a pass stick for 40 minutes.

They couldn't keep the ball when they had and good players – men such as Ben Smith, Aaron Smith and Waisake Naholo – were reduced to making basic mistakes that they never normally make.

They were a hopeless mess while conversely, as the Highlanders imploded and couldn't buy a trick, the Chiefs were on some kind of magical ride where they could do no wrong.

Their passes stuck. They shortened the Highlanders up and then stretched them wide and every time they probed, they got in behind and scored. It was clinical finishing at its best.


Their variation of attack was clever and subtle and frankly the Highlanders, the masters of resilience, couldn't get a good read on what was coming at them or how to stop it.

The Highlanders looked to have been blown away by it all. Liam Messam wound back the clock to a different time and played like he was still absolutely in his prime.

He bumped off defenders, ran through them, won turnovers, lineout ball, made a few offloads and was generally outstanding.

Anton Lienert-Brown was fast feet and sharp movement and Solomon Alaimalo was a menace in the wide channels.

The Chiefs were on fire and the tries just kept coming for them. It was all too easy for them and they might have wondered at half-time just how many points they were going to score.

That would have been forgivable given how well they were playing and how obviously damaged the Highlanders were.

But turning round with their wind at the backs, the Highlanders came back to life. They scored two tries in the first 10 minutes and a third not so long after until it was disallowed for a knock-on.

If that had been allowed to stand…well, who knows. The Highlanders were suddenly flying the way the Chiefs were and they were playing with the same freedom and fluency.

They were no longer a hopeless mess, with Rob Thompson's influence enormous.

The pack stepped up too and suddenly delivered the physicality they are renowned for and while they didn't claw their way back as far as they wanted, the Highlanders did at least do enough to salvage some pride.

Chiefs 45 (S. Alaimalo, T. Pulu (2), K. Tu'inukuafe, L. Jacobson, S. Wainui tries; D. McKenzie 6 cons; pen)
Highlanders 22 (T. Walden (2), T. Lomax, S. Frizell tries; L. Sopoaga con)