The Chiefs score six tries to run out 39-27 winners against the Waratahs in a thriller in Hamilton.
One game and the streak is over.
The Kiwis are back in business against their Australian counterparts in Super Rugby, after the Chiefs produced a 39-27 win over the Waratahs in a thrilling contest in Hamilton on Saturday night.
After snapping a lengthy New Zealand run of 40 wins last week, the Waratahs were this time outdone by a home side who re-found some slick touches in a six-tries-to-three effort at FMG Stadium Waikato, where they clinched a bonus point on fulltime.
Needing a win to keep themselves at least in with a sniff of a top-two conference finish, and just to generally restore some confidence after an up-and-down time of it recently, the home side had to do things the hard way against the Australian conference leaders.
Having only arrived back from South Africa in the early hours of Tuesday morning, it indeed looked like the Chiefs were still in a different timezone early, with the visitors coasting to a 14-0 lead after as many minutes.
But as if they had just set their alarms a bit late, the Chiefs then roared into action and eventually made their dominance in possession and territory pay, in a big way, as they scored 19 unanswered points in 17 minutes to get themselves back on track.
In beautiful, if chilly, conditions – before drizzle late on – it was the open, entertaining contest which these two teams like to play.
The Chiefs finally were back to scoring the tries they’re renowned for, and Charlie Ngatai’s move to second five-eighth paid off, with the co-captain having a big say in their go-forward and improved execution, as Toni Pulu and Damian McKenzie bagged doubles, and Brodie Retallick and Nathan Harris also crossed the chalk.
The Waratahs were a team high on confidence, and it made for a tit-for-tat tryscoring affair, as both teams’ backs got their dancing feet and jet packs on, on the back of rugged work from the big men.
In Bernard Foley’s 100th match, the Waratahs looked the goods for quite some time, but they surprisingly didn’t go high to Israel Folau as often as they perhaps could have, and it was only 10 late points from McKenzie which put them to bed.
With seven minutes to go it was captain Michael Hooper who penalised at a ruck, and that allowed McKenzie the chance to make the margin five, while then another big player in Retallick stood tall, winning a ruck penalty deep in his side’s own territory, to help seal the result.
It was one they had to fight for, after the Waratahs, despite an early tackle count of 20-1 against them, scored easily through Cam Clark in the fifth minute, and doubled that soon later through Curtis Rona.
The Chiefs had to dust themselves off, and thanks to some sloppy exits from the Waratahs they roared back – McKenzie put Retallick under the bar, Liam Messam swooped on a loose ruck ball to put Harris over, then McKenzie was on the end of a Pulu offload, following several fine charges from a long lineout.
Down 19-14 at the break, the Waratahs narrowed the gap through a Foley penalty goal early in the second half, and the visitors actually seemed hard done by not to have been awarded a try instead, as referee Glen Jackson ruled a forward pass from Kurtley Beale to Will Miller.
But just as quickly, it was momentum back with the Chiefs, as a hot attack saw Pulu end up with the ball, and he spun 360, headed back to his right wing and did superbly well to dummy and beat several men in blue for a quite stunning score.
Not to be outdone, it was the Waratahs then hitting straight back, in equally stylish terms, as although Beale’s long ball skidded along the turf, he doubled round with Folau to slice through.
Foley’s marvellous wide-out conversion made it 24-24 after 54 minutes, but that was short-lived, as Pulu was in just three minutes later, finding himself in a heap of space and Brad Weber then box-kicking his way, with the speedster doing the rest.
From there, the Chiefs ensured they got it done.
AT A GLANCE
Chiefs 39 (Damian McKenzie 2, Toni Pulu 2, Brodie Retallick, Nathan Harris tries; Damian McKenzie 3 con, pen) Waratahs 27 (Cam Clark, Curtis Rona, Kurtley Beale tries; Bernard Foley 3 con, 2 pen) HT: 19-14
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