The Chiefs rediscovered their winning form with a grinding 23-12 win over the Hurricanes on Saturday to cement their place at the top of the Super Rugby Pacific standings.
All Blacks lock Tupou Vaa'i scored two of the Chiefs' three tries in miserable conditions in Hamilton to bounce back from last week's shock 25-22 loss to the Reds – their first defeat of the season.
Up 10-0 at halftime, the home side looked comfortably placed when Vaa'i then bagged his second try as the pouring rain grew in intensity.
However, tries against the run of play to Hurricanes fullback Josh Moorby and No 8 Brayden Iose within the space of 10 minutes closed the gap to eight points entering the final stages.
Fly-half Damian McKenzie went on to land two penalties to seal his team's 11th win from 12 games and lift his own season tally to a competition-high 137 points.
McKenzie's kicking in general play was also influential as a Chiefs side featuring 10 All Blacks in their starting team largely controlled proceedings against the weakened Hurricanes.
PRAISE FROM THE SKIPPER
Chiefs co-captain Sam Cane praised his team's adherence to a no-frills game plan in the sodden conditions.
"When we come to this point of the season, the weather changes and I think the rugby we play has to change accordingly," All Blacks skipper Cane told broadcaster Sky Sport.
"It was always going to be a battle of the forwards once the weather came in like that. It won't be pieces of individual brilliance that win games at this point of the season. It'll be a real collective effort."
The visitors chose to omit a number of players under the All Blacks' resting protocols – including captain Ardie Savea and star back Jordie Barrett.
The Hurricanes remain fifth after losing three of their last five games and face a challenge to push for a top-four home quarterfinal, with their two remaining regular season fixtures both challenging all-New Zealand affairs against the Blues and Crusaders.
The Chiefs face a two-match tour of Australia before the playoffs, including a key match against title rivals the Brumbies in Canberra next week.