The Chiefs thrashed the Waratahs 46-31 at FMG Stadium in Hamilton to keep their playoff hopes alive, especially after the Highlanders’ last-gasp loss in Christchurch.
James Lowe and Tawera Kerr-Barlow were magnificent. Lowe scored a treble, the scrumhalf a double, and both were involved in assists as the Chiefs ran riot.
Lowe also had a hand in setting up Kerr-Barlow’s first try, while Damian McKenzie kicked 16 points with the boot, kicking five conversions and two penalties and was superb at fullback.
Four second-half tries from the Waratahs was not enough to give the Australians a first win over their Trans-Tasman rivals.
This was the Australian franchise’s ninth loss of a torrid campaign which saw them reach their nadir in the home loss to the Kings.
No Aussie team has beaten Kiwi opposition this season, and the dismal run goes back to last season so that one or two more defeats will bring up the half century of losses between the Antipodean sides.
Dave Rennie’s team raced to an 18-0 lead inside the opening half hour after tries from Mitchell Brown and Lowe’s first. McKenzie kicked two penalties and converted Lowe’s score as the home team took charge of the fixture.
McKenzie kicked two penalties and converted Lowe’s score as the home team took charge of the fixture.
Brown’s try came from some smart handling by Aaron Cruden, Lowe, Stephen Donald and Anton Lienert-Brown on the sideline. After some ‘hot potato’, Lowe held off a defender before offloading to the flanker, who ran untouched to score.
McKenzie had kicked two penalties between the Brown try and next. Donald put in a well-weighted dink which the 22-year-old caught. He ran at the defenders before sending the wing away.
Silatolu Latu was yellow carded (one of three players to end up in the sin-bin) at the end of the first-half before Bernard Foley kicked a penalty to give his side something.
The yellow card proved costly, as the Chiefs scored two converted tries inside the opening five minutes of the restart, which effectively ended the game as a contest.
The second-half began with a stunning try after some magic handling by Kerr-Barlow sent Lowe away for his second try.
It came from a well-worked lineout move between hooker Nathan Harris and Brown. the two interchanged passes inside the 5-metre. Harris charged free into the Waratahs’ 22, offloaded to his scrumhalf as he was tackled into touch.
Kerr-Barlow threw an audacious no-look reverse pass to Lowe for the try. McKenzie added the extras; 25-3.
The second score was equally as good. Lowe – at first receiver – burst through a gap, offloaded to McKenzie, who passed to the supporting Lienert-Brown.
The centre got his pass away to Kerr-Barlow, and just like that, it was 32-3.
The Waratahs might have folded – if they hadn’t already – but they dug deep and hit back with two quick tries in six minutes.
Rob Horne crossed first after he intercepted McKenzies long skip pass. The next came after a powerful driving maul saw Will Skelton get up off the floor with ball in hand. Foley kicked both conversions to reduce the large gap to 32-17.
The new-found momentum did not last. Donald picked up a loose ball and sent the supporting Kerr-Barlow away for his second try on 60 minutes. McKenzie added the two.
The Waratahs hit back when they scored from a scrum set piece. Matt Lucas collected the ball from Jed Holloway and put Cameron Clarke through a gap to score.
The next try will go down in rugby folklore. The Tahs broke from behind their 10 meters with Sekope Kepu. The tighthead shrugged off Lowe’s weak tackle, slipped Cruden’s attempt and handed off McKenzie as he charged 60 metres down the field to score. Richard Bands, eat your heart out.
Foley added the sideline conversion and, somehow, the Waratahs found themselves only eight points behind at 39-31.
The Chiefs would not be denied. Some wonderful interchanging between several players, ended when the home team sent the ball wide and Mitchell Karpik sent Lowe away for his hat-trick.
Final score: Chiefs 46 (18) Waratahs 31 (3)
Tries – Brown, Lowe (3), Kerr-Barlow (2)
Pen – McKenzie (2)
Con – McKenzie (5)
Cards – Brown (Yellow, 64th minute)
Tries – Horne, Skelton, Clarke, Kepu
Pen – Foley
Con – Foley (4)
Cards – Latu (Yellow, 37th minute), Ryan (Yellow, 64th minute)
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant Ref 1: Richard Kelly
Assistant Ref 2: Mike Lash
TMO: Ben Skeen
15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Stephen Donald, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (co-captain), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Sam Cane (co-captain), 6 Mitchell Brown, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Liam Polwart, 17 Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, 18 Atu Moli, 19 Taleni Seu, 20 Mitchell Karpik, 21 Jonathan Taumateine, 22 Tim Nanai-Williams, 23 Solomon Alaimalo.
15 Israel Folau, 14 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 13 Rob Horne, 12 David Horwitz, 11 Cameron Clarke, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Will Skelton, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Tom Robertson.
Replacements: 16 Damien Fitzpatrick, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 David McDuling, 20 Jed Holloway, 21 Jack Dempsey, 22 Matt Lucas, 23 Bryce Hegarty