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Reigning Super 15 champions the Waikato Chiefs beat the Otago Highlanders 19-7 to retain top spot in the New Zealand conference in Hamilton on Friday.
Both sides scored one try in a frantic and at times messy game but the Chiefs took the points through the boot of Gareth Anscombe, who slotted a conversion and four penalties.
The result left the Highlanders winless and at the bottom of the table after four games, with a play-off berth already looking beyond them, despite a strong player roster that was expected to build on last year's ninth place.
They dominated possession for long periods and ran the ball relentlessly but the Chiefs soaked up the pressure then hit them on the counter-attack, punishing the mistakes that came from the South Island team's high-tempo game plan.
Tim Nanai-Williams scored the Chiefs five pointer with a breakaway try after Highlanders' lock Josh Bekhuis lost the ball in a tackle.
The Highlanders hit back when Aaron Smith emerged from the base of a scrum and shrugged off a defender for a converted try but the Chiefs went into the break ahead 13-7 thanks to two Anscombe penalties.
He added two more for the only points in the second half to seal the win.