Super Rugby champions Waikato Chiefs withstood a first-half onslaught from the winless Otago Highlanders but dominated after the break to run out 19-7 winners in a sometimes frenetic encounter in Hamilton yesterday.
A first-half try from centre Tim Nanai-Williams and four penalties from the boot of full-back Gareth Anscombe proved sufficient for the win, which firmed up the hosts’ position atop the New Zealand conference.
The Highlanders had a converted try from Aaron Smith in the first half but were unable to add to that score and fell to their fourth straight defeat.
The Chiefs were forced to endure a breathless first-half assault from the visitors but took a 10-0 lead against the run of play, courtesy of an early Anscombe penalty and the eighth-minute try from centre Nanai-Williams.
The Highlanders continued to attack and, after a period of tryline pressure, scrum-half Smith scooted down the blindside from a five-metre scrum.
It took 21 minutes for the second half to produce a score when Anscombe landed his third penalty. His fourth was after 69 minutes when the Highlanders were penalised at the scrum.
The Highlanders’ Chris King blew their best chance of a score when he charged for the line with an overlap outside him four minutes from time.
Meanwhile, Adam Ashley-Cooper has pledged his future to the Australian Rugby Union and the NSW Waratahs. The 28-year-old has agreed a two-year contract extension, keeping him in Australia until after the 2015 World Cup.