Defence wins out for
Sportal.co.nz 30 Jun 2012 Getty Images
They led 18-9 at halftime, and 27-14 inside the last 10 minutes but had to withstand a late surge by the Highlanders to secure victory.
"The pleasing aspect was our defence towards the end when the Highlanders were chasing the game and playing wide," Clarke said.
"We stayed in the system well, made some big tackles and in the end that was the difference."
Clarke said the try just before halftime by fullback Robbie Robinson was a telling blow.
"We didn't have the ball much in the first half. We did a lot of defending, and gave away a lot of penalties, so Robbie's try just before the break was crucial."
The Chiefs next opponent are the Crusaders in Christchurch next Friday night.
"It was a real old derby tonight and it will be another next week. We'll have to take another step up."
Aaron Cruden, who kicked 17 points and controlled play with authority, said there would be some sore bodies during the next few days.
"It was pretty intense," he said. "We knew it would take 80 minutes to win and it did.
"The Highlanders played really well and tested us in a lot of areas and we're just relieved we were able to sneak away with a win.
"Turnover ball can be pretty crucial and we took advantage of that tonight. The Highlanders probably had more territory and possession but, when we needed to put a few points on the board, we were able to do so."
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