The Chiefs twice came from 14 points down to beat the Bulls 41-28 at Waikato Stadium, Hamilton.
This game was closer than the scoreline suggests.
The Chiefs scored six tries to four, denying the Bulls a losing bonus-point with a last-minute score by Anton Lienert-Brown.
The scored four converted tries before the break, but most noteworthy, they were kept scoreless in the second-half.
Brodie Retallick and Damian McKenzie starred in the comeback victory as the Chiefs.
Trailing 7-21 and 14-28 at half-time, the Chiefs twice overturned the two-score deficit.
The Bulls, yet again, threw away a commanding lead on their Australasian tour.
The Bulls scored four superb tries in an excellent first-half display of running rugby which had the Chiefs chasing shadows.
Some dubious officiating saw Embrose Papier’s try chalked off for the South Africans before McKenzie’s 63rd-minute penalty put his team ahead for the first time in the game.
It was a lead that the home team would not squander as they overpowered the visitors in the final 20 minutes of a thrilling Super Rugby game.
The game started at a frenetic pace with both teams scoring inside 10 minutes.
Warrick Gelant took Travis Ismaiel’s pass and beat McKenzie and Tiaan Falcon to the corner. It came from the lineout and a wrap-around with Jesse Kriel and Ismaiel.
A mistake by Ismaiel led to the Chiefs levelling the scores. Tiaan Falcon’s grubber-kick was spilt by Isamaiel and gathered by Johnny Fa’auli for the home team’s first points.
Handré Pollard and Kriel were causing all manner of problems for the Kiwis, although, it was the Chiefs’ ill-discipline which was causing them the most trouble.
The Bulls, traditionally known for their kicking and forward dominance, did not kick out of hand until the 12th minute, preferring to use their loose forwards at first receiver to gain the upper-hand at the advantage line.
Inspired by former Chiefs and All Blacks coach John Mitchell, it worked a treat as the Bulls ran the Chiefs ragged in the opening stages.
The Bulls maul and lineout was also dominant, wreaking havoc with the hosts.
Somehow, the referee Shuhei Kubo did not go to his pocket, despite warning Sam Cane on multiple occasions about his team’s deliberate pulling down of the Bulls driving maul in the red zone.
Divan Rossouw grabbed a seven-minute brace with two excellent finishes and his first two Super Rugby tries.
For the first, he beat McKenzie to the corner, but the five-pointer was only awarded after a TMO referral.
Rossouw was soon in for his second, on 23 minutes. It came from a sweeping lineout move between Pollard, Kriel and Hanro Liebenberg linking up in midfield.
Liebenberg put the Springbok centre through a gap. Kriel drew McKenzie, after beating Cane, and sent the winger away to give the visitors a well deserved 7-21 lead.
A frantic finish to the half.
With less than four minutes remaining before the break, the Chiefs reduced the Bulls’ lead to seven.
Retallick, with help from tighthead prop Angus Ta’avao, powered over for his first of the match.
Soon after the break, the Chiefs were in again. As is so often the case, the New Zealand sides score either side of half-time.
Only this time, the Bulls had other ideas, scoring after a wonderful counter-attack, thanks to some inspiration from Papier.
The scrumhalf gathered a poor kick from Brad Weber, ran across the field, beating Ta’avao and Rettalick.
Papier played Kriel, who slipped through another hole and handed the ball off to Pollard, on his inside shoulder.
The Springbok flyhalf, who just loves scoring against Kiwi opposition, dotted down under the posts.
The flyhalf’s conversion opened a two-score lead at half-time, but the Chiefs hit back immediately after the break.
Kriel was having some game, his half-time statistics read four carries; four defenders beaten, three clean breaks, two try assists.
But, after a powerful driving maul, the home side, again, reduced the deficit when Mitchell Brown crashed over the whitewash.
The Chiefs were gaining momentum and soon brought the scores to within two points.
Retallick finished off a stunning counter-attack which involved some astonishing offloads and support play.
On 58 minutes, Papier thought he had scored.
But the referee called for the TMO to check for an obstruction by Lood de Jager on Retallick, in the build-up.
TMO Shane McDermott and Mr Kubo, consequently decided that De Jager had impeded the All Blacks lock.
It was a contentious decision because Retallick ran into his opposite number and would not have made the tackle, anyway.
Chiefs take control.
With the game entering the last quarter, McKenzie fired over the only penalty goal of the match to give his team a one-point lead.
Conraad van Vuuren was sent to the sin-bin and he was lucky to not have been shown a red card for a high shot on McKenzie.
Down to 14 men, the Bulls folded in the wake of the Chiefs increasing intensity.
It almost certainly cost the Bulls and as a result, they could not stop the black tide that swept across the field.
Solomon Alaimalo gathered Fa’auli’s chip-kick, stepped two defenders and crashed over for his side’s fifth try, on 74 minutes.
Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi went close, soon after entering the field.
It was Lienert-Brown who, on the stroke of full-time, finally provided the coup de grâce, denying the Bulls a crucial bonus-point.
Final score: Chiefs 41 (14) Bulls 28 (28)
Tries – Fa’auli, Retallick (2), Brown, Alaimalo, Lienert-Brown
Pen – McKenzie
Con – McKenzie (4)
Tries – Gelant, Rossouw (2), Pollard
Con – Pollard (4)
Cards – Van Vuuren (Yellow, 68′)
Referee: Shuhei Kubo
Assistant Ref 1: Mike Fraser
Assistant Ref 2: Richard Kely
TMO: Shane McDermott
15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Johnny Fa’auli, 11 Solomon Alaimalo, 10 Tiaan Falcon, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Sam Cane (captain), 6 Lachlan Boshier, 5 Mitchell Brown, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Aidan Ross.
Replacements: 16 Liam Polwart, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Jeff Thwaites, 19 Michael Allardice, 20 Luke Jacobson, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Marty McKenzie, 23 Declan O’Donnell.
15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal (captain), 11 Divan Rossouw, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Andre Warner, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Rudolph Snyman, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Conraad van Vuuren, 19 Jason Jenkins/Tim Agaba, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Johnny Kotze.