No one was getting carried away with the result, there have been too many false dawns in the past, but coach Leon MacDonald, heading into his second season as coach of the Blues, was pleased with the defensive effort in the game, especially during a 10-minute opening in which his side never had the ball.
Chiefs coach Warren Gatland was also happy with his side's showing although he said the scrum would be getting some attention before the two sides do battle again in the opening game of the 2020 Investec Super Rugby season in a fortnight.
But it was McKenzie everyone was interested in and during a 20-minute burst, after halftime, he demonstrated all his usual characteristics assisting the side to score two of their tries during his stay.
His right knee was heavily strapped but he said the knee felt strong and he was happy with it.
Playing in rain the Highlanders, after being up 14-0 early, went down 21-40 to the Waratahs at Leichhardt Oval in Sydney on Friday.
It was a game notable for newcomers to the Australian side making an impact, none more than fullback Mark Nawaqanitawase who coach Rob Penney said would go straight into consideration for a starting role with the side.
"He has a lot going for him and it's going to be a real pleasure and a privilege to be part of the young man's development over the next three or four years.
"He has some gifts and is unfazed by the step up, which is a wonderful attribute to have," he said.
Flanker Carlo Tizzano also impressed, scoring two tries, while first five-eighths Will Harrison and prop Angus Bell also stood out.
Reds wing Filipo Daugunu romped to five tries in their 57-5 win over the Rebels in Gladstone but undid all the good work when sent off for a spear tackle near the end of the game.
Coach Brad Thorn said: "You can have all those tries back without the tackle from my point of view. But I guess, that's your job on the end there, to put the ball down, so it's good that he did that."
With Australian players James O'Connor, Taniela Tupou and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, in their side, the Reds were too strong for the young Rebels side.