The Chiefs will remain on top of the Super Rugby standings after they beat the Sharks 24-22 at Yarrow Stadium in New Plymouth.
The Crusaders are the only team who could overtake the Chiefs this weekend but they have a bye so the Chiefs will finish the round on top of the standings.
The Sharks earn a losing bonus point from the match and they provisionally move above the Brumbies and effectively into 9th place overall.
The Sharks outscored the Chiefs by three tries to two but Aaron Cruden kicked four penalties to Garth April’s one which won the match for the Chiefs.
The Sharks have now played 9 matches, won four, lost four and have one draw. The Chiefs have played 8 and have won seven matches. Their only loss was to the Lions.
The Chiefs made an explosive start as Seta Tamanivalu scored the opening try in the first minute of the match.
The Sharks managed to draw level before half time but eight minutes into the second half the Chiefs took the lead again.
Two further penalties put the Chiefs into a 9 point lead with 10 minutes remaining but the Sharks scored a try from a rolling maul and with the conversion they trailed by two.
Aside from the first minute defensive lapse the Sharks delivered a much improved performance compared to last week when they beat the Highlanders.
The Sharks courageous defence kept them in the match but the Chiefs wore them down with three second-half penalties by All Black flyhalf Aaron Cruden
Gary Gold’s team had the worst possible start when Chiefs centre Seta Tamanivalu took less than a minute to score.
The home side launched their first attack from clean ball off the top at a lineout just outside the Sharks 22, and Cruden flung a long pass to No 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, who popped a short ball to Tamanivalu.
The big outside centre burst past the burly frame of André Esterhuizen and ran in untouched to rock the Durban side.
Sharks pivot Garth April closed the gap with a ninth-minute penalty to take the score to 7-3, but it didn’t take long for the Chiefs to score their second five-pointer.
Following yet another knock-on by No 8 Daniel du Preez, this time inside the Sharks 22, the Chiefs camped on the tryline and despite some tigerish tackling from the visitors, Cruden eventually unlocked the defence with a cut-out pass to No 8 Michael Leitch close to the touchline, and the Japanese captain fell over the whitewash.
It took just four minutes for the Sharks to hit back, though, after Cruden missed touch with a penalty. The Durbanites worked their way into the 22, and after some good ground was made with ball-in-hand, they won another penalty that was kicked to the corner instead of at the posts.
The gamble paid off as hooker Kyle Cooper found lock Stephan Lewies in the middle of the lineout, and the Sharks set an excellent maul for Cooper to barrel over for their opening try.
The Sharks appeared to be finding their rhythm in the second quarter of the game, with their bulky forwards getting the edge in the physical battle. The likes of Dan du Preez, Lourens Adriaanse, Cooper and Dale Chadwick did the hard yards, and it allowed flyhalf April to play on the front foot off scrums and lineouts.
That gave Gold’s side confidence to retain possession and offload in the tackle as well. One such break-out saw the Sharks win a breakdown penalty inside the Chiefs half, and once again they decided to kick it out inside the 22.
After a strong maul and a few hit-ups, the Sharks spun the ball wide to April, who dummied past Brodie Retallick with a sensational step, and then turned Damian McKenzie inside-out to score a brilliant solo try.
The New Zealanders were much better in the tight exchanges in the second half, with All Black star lock Retallick punching big holes in the Sharks defence with ball-in-hand, while the Chiefs scrum improved significantly once Coenie Oosthuizen surprisingly replaced Adriaanse at tighthead prop.
Players like Leitch, Sam Cane and Hika Elliot also attacked the fringes relentlessly, and scrumhalf Brad Weber was a livewire as well, varying his options and showing a good turn of pace.
All of that gave Cruden the opportunity to bang over three crucial penalties to stretch the Chiefs’ lead to nine points with 10 minutes to go.
The Sharks were desperate, and rallied superbly as they decided to keep the ball-in-hand once more after employing a tactical kicking game in the first quarter of the second half.
It paid dividends as Esterhuizen and Lewies rumbled forward, but Sharks captain Keegan Daniel made a brave decision to kick another penalty out to the corner instead of going for the three points.
The lineout was about seven metres from the tryline, and the Sharks’ perfectly set maul screamed forward like a runaway truck, with replacement hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle emerging as the try-scorer.
April showed his ice-cool temperament as he slotted the difficult angled conversion to make it a two-point game at 24-22 with six minutes left.
But the Chiefs grabbed hold of the ball for the last few minutes, and even turned down a penalty in front of the posts to kill time instead of take three points.
The Durban outfit defended courageously and in the final attack the Chiefs won a penalty which they use to end the match by kicking the ball into touch.
Next week in Round 11 the Chiefs host the Highlanders in Hamilton while the Sharks return home to Durban where they will host the Hurricanes.
Final Score Chiefs 24 (15) Sharks 22 (15)
Tries – S. Tamanivalu, M.Leitch
Pen – A.Cruden 4
Con – A.Cruden
Tries – K.Cooper, G.April, C.Ralepelle
Pen – G.April
Con -G.April 2
Referee: Chris Pollock
Assistant Ref 1:Jamie Nutbrown
Assistant Ref 2:Angus Mabey
TMO : Glenn Newman
1. Mitchell Graham , 2. Hika Elliot , 3. Hiroshi Yamashita , 4. Dominic Bird , 5. Brodie Retallick , 6. Taleni Seu , 7. Sam Cane (cc) , 8. Michael Leitch , 9. Brad Weber , 10. Aaron Cruden (cc) , 11. Sam McNicol , 12. Anton Lienert-Brown , 13. Seta Tamanivalu , 14. Toni Pulu , 15. Damian McKenzie
Replacments: 16. Nathan Harris , 17. Siate Tokolahi , 18. Kane Hames , 19. James Tucker , 20. Lachlan Boshier , 21. Kayne Hammington , 22. Andrew Horrell , 23. Shaun Stevenson
15. Willie le Roux , 14. JP Pietersen , 13. Paul Jordaan , 12. Andre Esterhuizen , 11. Lwazi Mvovo , 10. Garth April , 9. Michael Claassens , 8. Daniel du Preez , 7. Jean-Luc du Preez , 6. Keegan Daniel (C) , 5. Stephan Lewies , 4. Etienne Oosthuizen , 3. Lourens Adriaanse , 2. Kyle Cooper , 1. Dale Chadwick
Replacements : 16. Chiliboy Ralepelle , 17. Thomas du Toit , 18. Coenie Oosthuizen , 19. Hyron Andrews , 20. Jean Deysel , 21. Stefan Ungerer , 22. Joe Pietersen , 23. Odwa Ndungane