Force 12 Chiefs 20
Forceful ... Arizona Taumalolo of the Chiefs. Photo: Getty Images
The Chiefs notched their fifth win on the trot and surged to top spot on the Super Rugby table with a 20-12 triumph over the Western Force at Perth's nib Stadium on Friday night.
The Chiefs were clearly the superior team on the night but struggled to break down a stubborn Force defence, which withstood numerous attacks near their tryline.
Breaking out for a dance ... Lelia Masaga celebrates his try. Photo: Getty Images
But in the end tries to wingers Lelia Masaga and Tim Nanai-Williams either side of half-time proved enough for the Chiefs, with the Force relying on the boot of fullback David Harvey for all of their points.
The loss left the Force (12 points) in last place in the Australian conference, with the Brumbies (19) leading the way and the Reds (17), Waratahs (17) and Rebels (14) all in hot pursuit.
The Chiefs lead the completion on 26 points, although the Stormers (24) can overtake them when they take on the Highlanders on Saturday.
The star-studded backline of the Chiefs put on a show throughout the night, with their powerful runners and a willingness to attack keeping the Force's defence on their toes.
Tempers were tested early when 134kg Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna pulled on the headgear of Nathan Sharpe, pulling the Force lock away at an awkward angle while he was contesting a breakdown.
Scrumhalves Brett Sheehan and Tawera Kerr-Barlow also exchanged pleasantries, but it was the Force who drew first blood through a ninth-minute penalty to Harvey.
It took just seven minutes for the Chiefs to hit back, with Aaron Cruden popping up a nice pass while on the ground to allow a charging Masaga to cross over.
Harvey nailed another penalty in the 21st minute, but the short-term signing was feeling some pain when he dislocated his finger later in the half.
The Chiefs deserved a bigger lead than the 7-6 advantage they took into halftime, and the visitors were duly rewarded in the 49th minute when Sonny Bill Williams unleashed one of his trademark offloads in the tackle.
After the Chiefs had swung the ball wide, Williams got his arms free while being dragged to ground and popped an inside ball to Nanai-Williams, who crossed for an easy try.
The Force twice closed the gap to five points courtesy of Harvey's boot, but Chiefs' five-eighth Cruden was able to reply on both occasions, denying the Force a bonus point.