The Gallagher Chiefs have won their third straight New Zealand derby to continue their perfect start to the season, beating the defending champion Hurricanes 26-18 at FMG Stadium Waikato.
In atrocious conditions, with heavy rain falling throughout most of the match, the Chiefs produced a disciplined and controlled performance to secure another win and send them to the top of the Investec Super Rugby table.
Both teams made a positive start to the match with plenty of continuity on attack in the pouring rain, highlighting the talent on display across the park, but the opening minutes also saw an unfortunate shoulder injury to Tim Nanai-Williams which gave an early entrance to Stephen Donald.
Shortly after, the first scoring opportunity of the match came for the Hurricanes and first five Beauden Barrett was on target with a penalty to put the visitors in front.
A strong response from the Chiefs saw them swing onto attack and, after turning down an easy shot at goal of their own, they pressured the Hurricanes attack for several minutes before lock Brodie Retallick barged his way over the line to score.
Fullback Damian McKenzie nailed the tricky conversion to give the Chiefs a 7-3 lead at the end of the first quarter, with the try coming just after Ardie Savea was yellow carded for repeat infringements from the Hurricanes near their own goal line.
Soon after Barrett struck his second penalty of the evening but the Hurricanes were then briefly reduced to 13 players with Michael Fatialofa sent to the bin for a no-arms tackle.
The ill-discipline led to good field position for the Chiefs which they eventually turned into three more points from the boot of McKenzie.
Late in the half the physicality of the match really began to show with several big tackles and collisions setting the tone for a big second half, but not before the Chiefs landed a huge blow.
In the final play of the half a superbly weighted chip kick over the defence from halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow off the back of a scrum gave Toni Pulu a chance, and the big winger out sprinted the defence to slide over for the try.
McKenzie was again on target from out wide with the extra two points to take the lead out to 17-6 at the break.
Buoyed by their strong finish to the first half, the Gallagher Chiefs came out with a spring in their step to start the second spell and, after 10 minutes of territorial dominance, McKenzie chipped over another three pointer to extend the lead.
The Hurricanes slowly began to get their hands on the ball more but the Chiefs defence was up to the task, and the home side went past the 60 minute mark without conceding a try for the third straight week.
Finally, their line was breached when Hurricanes halfback TJ Perenara did well to force his way over the line off the back of a maul to get his side back into the contest.
The try sprung the visitors into action and suddenly they looked dangerous every time they touched the ball, but the hard to crack Chiefs defence didn’t take long to tighten up once more.
With the Hurricanes chasing the game, McKenzie was able to add his third penalty with just over five minutes remaining to continue his perfect night off the kicking tee.
Chiefs Number 8 Michael Leitch was then sent to the bin for a reckless tackle and a desperate Hurricanes side were rewarded for throwing caution to the wind with a well worked try to wing Julian Savea.
Their second try put them in bonus point territory and gave them one final play to snatch an unlikely win but a Stephen Donald turnover halted their late charge.
The resulting penalty gave McKenzie the chance to deny the Hurricanes their bonus point and he made no mistake as the visitors were forced to head back to Wellington with nothing to show for their efforts.
Gallagher Chiefs 26 (Brodie Retallick, Toni Pulu tries; Damian McKenzie 2 cons, 4 pens) Hurricanes 18 (TJ Perenara, Julian Savea tries; Beauden Barrett con, 2 pens) HT: 17-6.