Charlie Ngatai put a year of uncertainty behind him while Stephen Donald turned the clock back even further in a crushing win for the Chiefs over the Queensland Reds last night.
The hosts ran in six tries to three in a 46-17 bonus point win in New Plymouth to notch a ninth success out of 10 Super Rugby games.
One of their most fluent recent performances, it keeps the pressure on the unbeaten Crusaders at the helm of the New Zealand Conference.
The Reds led 12-7 after the first quarter but fell away badly, particularly on defence, to maintain Australia’s drought against Kiwi teams this season.
The night was a special one for second five-eighth Ngatai and reserve hooker Nathan Harris, who both played their last Super Rugby matches midway through last year.
Classy one-Test back Ngatai’s future was unclear as he wrestled with ongoing concussion symptoms.
The perseverance paid off as he returned in style, scoring a try late in the first half which he set up earlier through a sizzling bust.
That try put the Chiefs 20-12 up at halftime, with prop Kane Hames having burrowed over earlier, while fullback Damian McKenzie slotted two penalties and two conversions as part of a 16-point haul.
A Chiefs side that had conceded just 16 tries in nine games were broken twice in the first 20 minutes.
Reds hooker Stephen Moore scored from a lineout drive before winger Eto Nabuli pounced on a deflection when opposite James Lowe attempted an intercept.
The result was sealed in the first 13 minutes of the second spell when lock Dominic Bird’s try was followed quickly by a double to veteran Donald.
Starting at first five-eighth in place of an unwell Aaron Cruden, 2011 World Cup cult hero Donald showed surprising acceleration to storm into space for both tries.
Centre Campbell Magnay crossed for the Reds before Lowe brushed past a host of tacklers with embarrassing ease to ensure the Chiefs snared the bonus.