Damian McKenzie “looked confident” in a 20-minute return from injury but the Chiefs went down to the Blues 26-19 in their pre-season clash in Waihi.
The Blues won four tries to three, with Kurt Eklund, Ezekiel Lindenmuth, Matt Duffie and Hoskins Sotutu scoring tries for the visitors.
The Chiefs, who trailed 19-0 at halftime, a Samisoni Taukei’aho double and a Naitoa Ah Kuoi try saw them pull within a converted try in the second half.
McKenzie said his return was “a long time coming” after a nine-month layoff following a knee reconstruction.
“[It was] nice to get some early ball and early contact,” McKenzie said.
“[The] knee is fine. I’ve obviously done a lot of work since my injury, bit of rehab. It’s feeling pretty strong.
“A lot of awesome help from our medical team and our trainers - they’ve got me in a good position to come back and play, and my knee feels great.
“The lungs were blowing a bit. Match fitness is a different thing."
New coach Warren Gatland was excited by what a fit McKenzie could do.
"He looked confident. We just wanted to give him 20 minutes to get out there," Gatland said.
"You can see what sort of impact he's going to have in a couple of weeks, having some more game time and getting aerobically fit, so we’ve just got to be smart and look after him."
The plan was for McKenzie, who is focusing primarily on playing fullback, to play in the round one rematch against the Blues at Eden Park on January 31.
“I’m really focused on 15 at the moment and trying to cement a position. We’ve got a lot of great fifteens at the Chiefs,” he said.
“There are lot of tens coming through and we’ve got Cruds [Aaron Cruden] coming back as well.
“If I can focus on 15 and come into to 10 when I need to, that would be the ideal situation.”