The Chiefs hit back after trailing by 14 points to score a 39-27 bonus-point win over the Waratahs in Hamilton on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
What a difference a week makes. Seven days after losing to the Sharks in Durban, the Chiefs – who recently welcomed back the likes of Brodie Retallick and Damian McKenzie – are back to winning ways.
The Waratahs were so dominant during the early stages. The visitors found space in the wider channels and exposed the Chiefs’ defensive weakness at No 10.
Indeed, the Waratahs made a statement when they scored from the first phase in the first quarter. Kurtley Beale hit Curtis Rona with a flat pass, and the No 13 finished to help the visitors take a 14-0 lead.
The Chiefs never panicked. Inspired by the likes of Retallick, they started to boss the collisions and breakdowns. Their passing game improved, and the Waratahs defence had no answer in the closing stages of the first half.
Retallick crossed for the hosts’ first try, and McKenzie for the third. The latter score allowed the Chiefs to head into the sheds with a 19-14 lead.
The third quarter witnessed a fierce contest. A Toni Pulu try was soon cancelled out by a Beale score at the other end. Bernard Foley’s conversion levelled the scores at 24-24 with still 27 minutes left on the clock.
Pulu scored his second in the 57th minute, and suddenly the Chiefs were in a position to push for the try-scoring bonus point. The Waratahs stayed in touch via the boot of Foley, though, and this forced the hosts to rethink their tactics in the closing stages.
McKenzie kicked a penalty in the 73rd minute to give his side a five-point advantage. The Waratahs had the chance to steal the game at the death, but were denied when Retallick made a crucial steal at the breakdown.
The Chiefs then proceeded to finish the game with a flourish. A scrum was awarded to the hosts on the stroke of full-time. McKenzie struck from this set piece to claim the bonus point for his team, and to deny the Waratahs a consolation for losing by seven or fewer.
Chiefs – Tries: Brodie Retallick, Nathan Harris, Damian McKenzie (2), Toni Pulu (2). Conversions: Damian McKenzie (3). Penalty: Damian McKenzie.
Waratahs – Tries: Cam Clark, Curtis Rona, Kurtley Beale. Conversions: Bernard Foley (3). Penalties: Foley (2).
Chiefs – 15 Solomona Alaimalo, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Charlie Ngatai (c), 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.
Subs: 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 Cam Clark, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Will Miller, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Tom Staniforth, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Tom Robertson.
Subs: 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.
Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images