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Chiefs see off Waratahs challenge

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The Chiefs beat the Waratahs 39-27 in a tight, tense match at FMG Waikato Stadium, Hamilton.

Toni Pulu and Damian McKenzie both collected a brace in the six-try to three, victory.

The game was closer than the scoreline suggests.

Bernard Foley’s 65th-minute penalty made it a two-point ball-game, however, the Chiefs and McKenzie, ended the Australian’s attempt at back-to-back wins over New Zealand opposition.

The ‘Tahs are the Chiefs’ nemesis in Super Rugby, winning 62 percent of their clashes in the tournament.

And it looked like another upset might be on the cards after the visitor’s fast start.

The Waratahs raced to a 14-nil 14-minute lead, with tries from two set pieces by Cam Clark and Curtis Rona.

The Chiefs hit back with three superb scores by Brodie Retallick, Nathan Harris and the effervescent Damian McKenzie before the break.

Pulu’s tries sandwiched a great score by Kurtley Beale as the two teams traded blows.

Waikato led 29-24 lead after Beale’s five-pointer levelled the game at 24-all.

Foley reduced the gap with 15 minutes to play, but threes will never be enough against Kiwi opposition.

McKenzie’s last-play try from a scrum sealed the deal for his team.

The Waratahs were coming off a high after last week’s win over the Highlanders ended a 40-game losing streak by Australian teams against their trans-Tasman rivals. 

They started like a house on fire, racing out the traps.

Clark finished off a beautifully worked first-phase try.

Foley, Beale and Taqele Naiyaravoro, all combined to send the winger away in the corner.

The Aussies doubled their lead, seven minutes’ later when Beale sent Rona through a hole in the Chiefs midfield.

The Tahs could not make their advantage count and have a knack for throwing away handy leads.

Charlie Ngatai had already started running through some holes of his own, dictating the tempo and giving his team opportunities to pull back a score.

The dam wall was eventually breached in the 17th-minute when Retallick crashed over from close range.

It came from Ngatai’s third line-break which took his team inside the red zone.

The home side was starting to find their rhythm.

Harris gathered Liam Messam’s pop-pass and barged over the whitewash before the half-hour.

It came from the Waratahs trying to run the ball out of their 22.

They took contact, committed too many players to the ruck without a halfback.

Messam spotted the ball was out and pounced.

McKenzie missed his conversion to level the scores, but it did not matter as he was over for the third try, three minutes’ later.

It came from another Ngatai break and offload, which started from a long lineout throw.

Israel Folau could not stop the diminutive first-five, who beat him for pace.

The Waratahs did not implode; they fought back.

Foley kicked an early second-half penalty to reduce the difference to two.

The Chiefs went one better. Make that five better.

Pulu picked up the bouncing ball and crossed for the fourth Chiefs try after Rona’s poor defensive error proved costly.

Rona shot up out of the line, giving the Kiwis space on the outside to manoeuvre their way to the try-line.

It was tit-for-tat.

Beale combined with Folau before ghosting through two defenders and sliding in for the try.

It was a good pick up by Izzy, who stood up a defender and waited for Beale’s wrap-around, which took out the outside defender.

McKenzie tried, but could not get to the Wallaby centre in time.

Foley’s conversion tied the game.

The fightback was short-lived as Pulu collected a kick, in behind the Tahs’ back-three, before flopping over for his second.

Foley pulled back the deficit with another penalty to give his side a chance.

It was one they could not take. Instead, they conceded a McKenzie penalty, soon afterwards.

The Chiefs finished the stronger and were rewarded for their efforts when, after the hooter, McKenzie coasted through some tired defence and scored from a scrum set-piece.

Chiefs versus Waratahs video highlights.

Final score: Chiefs 39 (19) Waratahs 27 (14)

Scorers

Chiefs
Tries – Retallick, Harris, D. McKenzie (2), Pulu (2)
Pen – D. McKenzie
Con – D. McKenzie (3)
Drop –
Cards –

Waratahs
Tries – Clark, Rona, Beale
Pen – Foley (2)
Con – Foley (3)
Drop –
Cards –

Match Officials
Referee: Glen Jackson
Assistant Ref 1: Angus Mabey
Assistant Ref 2: Cam Stone
TMO: Aaron Paterson

Teams

Chiefs

15 Solomon Alaimalo, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Charlie Ngatai (captain), 11 Sean Wainui, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Mitch Karpik, 6 Luke Jacobson, 5 Michael Allardice, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.

Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Jeff Thwaites, 19 Jesse Parete, 20 Matt Matich, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Marty McKenzie, 23 Shaun Stevenson.

Waratahs

15 Israel Folau, 14 Cameron Clark, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Will Miller, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Tom Staniforth, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Tom Robertson.

Replacements: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Jed Holloway, 20 Brad Wilkin, 21 Jake Gordon, 22 Lalakai Foketi, 23 Bryce Hegarty.

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