PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa - Winger Lelia Masaga bagged a hat trick of tries to spearhead the Chiefs' 35-24 bonus-point win over the plucky Southern Kings in Super 15 rugby on Friday.
Masaga's pair in the first half was set up by flyhalf Aaron Cruden as New Zealand's leading side, which dominated territory, led 18-6 at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
But in the dying seconds of the half and against the run of play, Kings teenage wing Sergeal Petersen scooped up a spilled pass by the Chiefs and motored 85 metres to the posts. His try was converted by Demetri Catrakilis, who would make five out of six goalkicks and hit the left post for his only miss.
Any hope of a Kings resurrection, however, was quickly snuffed out by the slick-passing Chiefs, as replacement flanker Sam Cane and Masaga dotted down in a three-minute spell to make it 32-13 after 53 minutes.
While Chiefs substitute scrumhalf Augustine Pulu was in the sin-bin, the Kings rallied with a try and penalty, but the Chiefs defence allowed little else.
"It was a big battle and we have to give credit to the Kings, they put us under a lot of pressure," Chiefs captain Craig Clarke said. "We were also a bit frustrated with our execution."
The Kings, last in the South African conference, were dealt a last-minute blow when lock Darron Nell withdrew before the game and the captaincy was passed to flanker Steven Sykes.
The Chiefs led 6-3 when the Kings missed touch, the Chiefs countered, and Cruden did a double-round to send Masaga over into the right corner.
Cruden and Tim Nanai-Williams then brilliantly passed between themselves along the right sideline for Masaga's second try.
But Masaga dropped the pass that led to Petersen's third try in three games for the South African newcomers.
Cane, on for injured Chiefs debutant Ross Filipo, scored rucking off a 5-meter scrum, then Masaga earned the bonus-point fourth try when he was given a small overlap and was too fast for the Kings defence. Gareth Anscombe made a second superb conversion from the right touch and the Chiefs led 32-13 with more than a quarter to go.
After Pulu, barely on as a replacement, was yellow-carded for a professional foul defending his tryline, Kings No. 8 Jacques Engelbrecht powered across with a helpful push from New Zealand-born midfielder Hadleigh Parkes.
Anscombe and Catrakilis finished the scoring off with penalties.
"We did well, we just need to hold on to the ball better," Sykes said. "The most important thing for us is to improve week by week. We gave our backs a bit better ball today and we were better than last week."
Chiefs 35 (Lelia Masaga 3, Sam Cane tries; Gareth Anscombe 3 conversions, 3 penalties), Southern Kings 24 (Sergeal Petersen, Jacques Engelbrcht tries; Demetri Catrakilis conversion, 4 penalties). HT: 18-13