Super Rugby

Naholo back with a bang as Highlanders end Chiefs' streak

Waisake Naholo made a triumphant return from injury with two tries as reigning champions Highlanders brought an end to Chiefs' winning streak in Super Rugby with a hugely impressive 26-13 victory in Hamilton.

Naholo returned to action on Saturday after spending more than two months on the sidelines due to a broken leg.

And the All Blacks wing enjoyed the most satisfying of comebacks, crossing twice in the second half to ensure Chiefs suffered defeat for the first time in eight matches and missed out on the chance to regain top spot in the New Zealand Conference.

Prop Dan Lienert-Brown raced through a gap for the only try of the opening period, after Highlanders had landed two penalties to their opponents' one, and Chiefs' hopes of overturning a 10-point deficit were dented when Charlie Ngatai was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle on the stroke of half-time.

Highlanders, seeking a fifth successive triumph over Chiefs, duly capitalised on their numerical advantage when a period of pressure concluded with Naholo powering over Damian McKenzie to score in the right corner.

Aaron Cruden rounded off a superb team move to trim Highlanders' lead, but Naholo was soon over again following some patient build-up play.

Chiefs then lost a second player for 10 minutes as Ma'ama Vaipulu was yellow carded amid a flurry of infringements – Lima Sopoaga kicking the resulting penalty, his third, with the match already over as a contest.

The hosts did at least end proceedings on a positive note as Sam Vaka marked his Super Rugby debut with a last-minute try. Naholo almost responded with a hat-trick score, only to place his foot in touch prior to touching down.