Wing wizard Jona Nareki ran in a hat-trick as the Highlanders recovered from a 14-point deficit to sink the Chiefs 39-23 in Hamilton.

The result meant the Chiefs lost a 10th successive game, and they will scarcely have better opportunities to get back to winning ways in Super Rugby Aotearoa, having led 20-6 inside half an hour of this contest.

Yellow cards for Sio Tomkinson and Ash Dixon hindered the Highlanders early on, and tries from Luke Jacobson and Damian McKenzie put the Chiefs apparently in charge.

Nareki had other ideas, though, and when the 23-year-old sprinted 90 metres from deep inside his own 22 to score, it was an ominous warning of what was to come.

Folau Fakatava cut further into the narrowing deficit 10 minutes into the second half, darting over from close range, and then Nareki took over, firstly with a lung-busting dash through midfield that ended with him feeding Shannon Frizell to power over the line.

Nareki himself raced over in the right corner for his second try in the 57th minute, showing great pace but also the nimblest of footwork to scythe through the Chiefs defence.

He got in again in the 69th minute, this time on the left, beating a desperate last-ditch attempted tackle to dot down in the corner and complete the hat-trick.

Josh Ioane added the extras to four of the Highlanders' five tries and added a pair of penalties, with the Chiefs left wounded by a brutal setback.

All Blacks half-back Aaron Smith has committed to New Zealand Rugby (NZR) until the 2023 World Cup in France after signing a new contract.

NZR confirmed on Tuesday that the 32-year-old, who has 97 caps for the All Blacks, had penned a new deal securing his future with Super Rugby side Highlanders and provincially with Manawatu.

Palmerston North-born Smith is New Zealand's most capped half-back and remains a key member of the All Blacks side who finished third at the 2019 World Cup.

"One thing that hasn't changed is my love for the Highlanders, the All Blacks and Manawatu," Smith said.

"The decision to stay is based on a number of things, but I'm very keen to see the Highlanders do well, we have a good environment here and some great, young players, so I think the next few years will be exciting for us and it'll be great to be part of it.

"Dunedin has been good to me. My wife Teagan and I have a home and a business here and our son Luka was born here. 

"I felt that committing to the Highlanders for another few years in some small way says thanks for all the support we have enjoyed over the years."

All Blacks coach Ian Foster added that Smith's influence on the side could not be underestimated.

"He is so instrumental in the way we play the game and is such a vital cog for us, both on and off the field, so this is fantastic news," Foster said. 

"We're delighted that Aaron, Teagan and his family have decided to commit to New Zealand and congratulate them on the decision."

It is anticipated Smith will bring up his 100th New Zealand cap this year, while he is two caps away from equalling the record for most appearances for the Highlanders.

Mackenzie Hansen crossed for a hat-trick as the Brumbies ran in nine tries to thrash the Waratahs 61-10 in a lopsided Super Rugby AU clash at GIO Stadium in Canberra. 

The hosts made it 17 wins in 18 games at home, scoring 35 points without reply in the second half of proceedings. 

Waratahs actually opened the scoring through a Will Harrison penalty, yet Rob Valetini, Hansen, Noah Lolesio and Connal McInerney all grabbed tries to make it 26-10 to the hosts at the interval. 

Harry Johnson-Holmes had gone over for a score after 30 minutes that Harrison also converted, yet the overwhelmed Waratahs were ripped apart after the break. 

Wing Hansen crossed again in the 56th minute before completing his treble with nine minutes remaining. There were also tries for Nic White, Lachlan Lonergan and Tom Banks, while Lolesio kicked five conversions to give the fly-half a personal haul of 15 points. 

Replacement Ryan Lonergan took over kicking duties to land three conversion attempts following his introduction, helping the Brumbies claim their biggest ever win over their domestic rivals. It is also their biggest margin of victory in a Super Rugby fixture over a fellow Australian team.

The Blues started their Super Rugby Aotearoa season with a 31-16 win over the Hurricanes on Saturday.

Last year's runners-up, the Blues scored three second-half tries at Sky Stadium in Wellington to record an impressive win.

The Hurricanes led at half-time but were outscored 24-5 in the second half.

The Blues were gifted an early try when Devan Flanders threw a loose pass, allowing Dalton Papalii to intercept and score.

But the Hurricanes responded almost immediately through Asafo Aumua, who crashed over in the fifth minute.

A pair of late Jordie Barrett penalties saw the Hurricanes lead 11-7 at the break, but the Blues quickly responded after the interval.

Otere Black's great kick found Caleb Clarke in the corner down the left before Stephen Perofeta also scored to put the Blues up 21-11.

Aumua went over again for the Hurricanes, but the Blues sealed their win through Rieko Ioane with four minutes remaining.

Alex Mafi pounced for two second-half tries as the 14-man Reds snatched a dramatic 23-21 win over the Rebels in Super Rugby AU.

The hooker scored either side of team-mate Feao Fotuaika being sent off, while captain James O'Connor added the extras to both tries and booted three penalties.

Mafi's second try came in the 77th minute, but there was still almost a late twist when the Rebels were handed a last-gasp penalty, only for Matt Toomua to steer his kick left of the posts.

Toomua booted four first-half penalties to two from O'Connor as the Rebels took a 12-6 lead into the break, both fly-halves also missing a kick at goal.

Toomua kicked the Rebels further ahead at the start of the second half, but the Reds responded as Mafi ducked in to find a way to the line from the back of a driving maul.

O'Connor's conversion made it a two-point game, although Reece Hodge then kicked a penalty to give the Rebels more breathing space.

Fotuaika was sent off in the 57th minute for cleaning out Richard Hardwick with direct contact to the head.

O'Connor and Toomua traded penalties before former Melbourne Storm star Suliasi Vunivalu looked to have made a sensational entrance on his union debut for the Reds, the code-switching Fijian sprinting to chase what looked a lost cause.

He wanted a try, but video replays showed Joe Powell had nudged the ball dead before Vunivalu reached it.

Mafi, though, would not be denied. He sold a dummy and sliced through a group of white shirts to dive over and level the game.

O'Connor put the 14 men in front by adding the extras, before the Rebels had their one last shot at goal, Toomua off target from long range.

The Crusaders made a winning start to their Super Rugby Aotearoa title defence, holding off the Highlanders to triumph 26-13 on Friday. 

All Blacks hooker Codie Taylor scored the opening try of the 2021 season as Crusaders crossed four times in total at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, though they were made to work hard for victory.

After Taylor touched down in the 13th minute, Bryn Hall followed suit soon after as the reigning champions quickly eased into a 14-0 lead, Richie Mo'unga landing both conversion attempts. 

However, Highlanders hit back to close the gap to four at the break. Shannon Frizell got their first points with a try, while Connor Garden-Bachop finished off a flowing move just before half-time. 

Mitch Hunt was on target with a penalty in the 43rd minute to reduce the deficit to just a solitary point, yet the home team were unable to edge ahead as Crusaders shut them out for the remainder of the contest. 

Sevu Reece crucially crashed over to make it 19-13, while replacement hooker Brodie McAlister sealed victory from a lineout drive with six minutes remaining. 

Mo'unga slotted over his third conversion as Crusaders were able to celebrate a successful start to their campaign, even though they finished with 14 men following a late yellow card for Scott Barrett. 

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