The bonus-point win at Waikato Stadium put the Chiefs, champions in 2012 and 2013, four points clear of early season pacesetters Wellington Hurricanes, who play the Queensland Reds on Sunday.
A try from flanker Angus Cottrell had given the Force an early lead but it always looked like being a tough evening for the visitors after they lost scrumhalf Ian Prior to a red card for a tip tackle on Tim Nanai-Williams in the 29th minute.
Centre Charlie Ngatai scored the Chiefs' opening try with a superb long-range effort in the 19th minute, hooker Hika Elliot crossed for the second just before halftime and a penalty try just after the break put the home side well in charge at 30-8.
Winger Luke Morahan got a second Force try in the 56th minute, however, and skipper Matt Hodgson, making his first appearance of the season after recovering from injury, scored a third six minutes later to cut the deficit to 30-22.
Nanai-Williams capped a livewire performance with a brilliant solo try to secure the bonus point for the Chiefs a couple of minutes later but replacement hooker Heath Tessmann then got a fourth for the Force to set up a tense last three minutes.
Marty McKenzie replaced All Black flyhalf Aaron Cruden, whose season was ended by a knee injury sustained in last week's win over Canterbury Crusaders, and he put in an assured all-round performance with 15 points from the kicking tee.
It was a ninth straight defeat for the Perth-based Force since their opening round victory over reigning champion New South Wales Waratahs and they remain rooted to the bottom of the standings. – Reuters
Original source: Chiefs battle past gritty Force