(Reuters) - The Waikato Chiefs attacked with abandon in the second half to fell the visiting Bulls 28-22 in Hamilton on Friday and reclaim top spot in the Super Rugby standings.
Fired by slick passing from flyhalf Aaron Cruden and line-breaking inside centre Sonny Bill Williams, the Chiefs overcame a 16-8 halftime deficit to send the Pretoria-based Bulls back to South Africa with a second straight loss on tour.
"We're thrilled that we could kick on in a very tight game," Chiefs skipper Craig Clarke said in a pitchside interview.
"We knew we were playing some good footy and needed to keep doing what we were doing and we did that ... we didn't want to play a controlled, structured game, that's sort of their style."
Bulls flyhalf Morne Steyn was typically razor-sharp in front of the posts, finishing with 17 points, but his team's vaunted defence buckled under pressure to concede two tries in the second half.
Cruden's conversion after the Chiefs' third try by replacement flanker Sam Cane put the home side six points up with 10 minutes remaining and desperate drives toward the line by the Bulls ultimately came to nothing.
The Bulls held the early ascendancy after Steyn booted a drop goal over the bar but the visitors dropped the ball to allow Chiefs fullback Andrew Horrell to score the first try in the 24th minute.
Cruden deftly steered a high kick into the Bulls' right corner where winger Akona Ndungane spilled the catch and the enterprising Horrell dived on the ball after kicking it over the tryline.
The Chiefs pushed hard for a second, but were repelled time and again by the Bulls on the last line of defence and were sucker-punched a minute before half-time by a Bjorn Basson try.
The jet-heeled Basson received a pass wide on the left wing and shrugged off a tackle from fellow winger Lelia Masaga before streaming over the line.
The teams traded penalties after halftime before Cruden struck in the 58th minute with a quick inside pass that allowed winger Asaeli Tikoirotuma to cross for a try near the posts and level the match at 19-19.
Steyn nosed the visitors back in front with another penalty kick before 20-year-old Cane completed a stunning move that started from the left touchline and ended in the match-winning try.
A quick pass inside from Cruden released Williams in midfield and he burst through the Bulls line and offloaded to the hard-running Cane for a try beneath the posts.
The Chiefs defended grimly over the remaining minutes and sparked raucous cheers from the crowd of 18,000 by winning a turnover ball at the breakdown to cut off a threatening drive after the siren.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Patrick Johnston)