Rugby: Chiefs wave goodbye to Waratahs challenge

Section
Rugby,
Publish Date
Saturday, 26 May 2018, 7:36PM
Damian McKenzie of the Chiefs scores a try against the Waratahs. Photo / Getty
Damian McKenzie of the Chiefs scores a try against the Waratahs. Photo / Getty

No one would have blamed Chiefs fans for changing the channel when the side went 14-0 down inside 14 minutes against the Waratahs in Hamilton on Saturday night.

Too many errors and sloppy periods of play had given the visitors all the early territory, all the early possession and, as a result, all the points.

However, it appeared that it was simply a case of the Chiefs being gracious hosts, giving the Waratahs a fair run with the football before they kicked into gear.

Led by Brodie Retallick at his usual barnstorming best, and Charlie 'hand in every play' Ngatai, the Chiefs ran home to a 39-27 win in what was a brilliant display of running rugby from both sides.

Ngatai seemed to be fronting every attack the Chiefs put together, running for well over 100m, getting offloads away, beating defenders and breaking the line. And, as he's done time and again, Retallick put the team on his broad shoulders, leading from the front at both ends of the pitch.

It was an unquestionably forward pass from Chiefs No.10 Damian McKenzie that opened the door early for the visitors. Gifted a scrum inside the Chiefs 22m, a silky backline move saw winger Cameron Clark go over in the corner. Bernard Foley, in his 100th Waratahs match, made no mistake from the tee to give the visitors a 7-0 lead. They doubled that scoreline moments later, again from a set piece.

It was a set play from the back of the lineout, with the Waratahs backline moving the ball through the hands before midfielder Curtis Rona was guided through a hole, stepping past defenders and dotting down. Up 14-0 after as many minutes, things looked good for the Waratahs and ominous for the Chiefs.

Through the early minutes, nothing seemed to stick for the Chiefs. Either passes were going to ground or the ball was slipping from their hands. That didn't stop them from throwing the ball around – and it's a good thing they didn't.

After a scrum where the Chiefs pack decimated that of the Waratahs, Retallick crashed over from close range, fed through a hole by McKenzie to get the hosts on the board after 17 minutes. He was soon followed by Nathan Harris and McKenzie as the Chiefs powered through to a 19-14 lead at the break. McKenzie's try was particularly impressive, as he dragged Israel Folau over the try line and planted the ball despite the Waratahs fullback's best efforts.

Gracious hosts as the Chiefs were, the Waratahs were again first to score in the second half with Foley knocking over a penalty from close range.

The Waratahs would have been buoyed by closing the gap, but that feeling didn't last long. A long lineout throw cleaned up by Ngatai put winger Sean Wainui in space down the edge. He was reeled in, but the Chiefs got the ball to Toni Pulu on the opposite side from a McKenzie pass – albeit a sloppy one.

In keeping with the theme of the game, the sides then traded tries, the Chiefs keeping their noses in front.

Despite a late charge from the visitors, the Chiefs were able to keep things that way - a late McKenzie try sending the visitors away without as much as a bonus point to show for their efforts. 

Chiefs 39 (Toni Pulu 2, Damian McKenzie 2, Brodie Retallick, Nathan Harris tries; Damian McKenzie 3 cons, pen)
Waratahs 27 (Cameron Clark, Curtis Rona, Kurtley Beale tries; Bernard Foley 3 cons, 2 pen)
HT: 19-14

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