Second-half comeback not enough to save Waratahs' season
IT was Groundhog Day for the Waratahs, in a Groundhog season that is destined to progress no further than the regular rounds after they were beaten 46-31 in Waikato.
NSW scored 28 second half points, yet as so often has been the case this year, were undone by a poor start and ill-discipline.
The Chiefs scored six tries to four in the end, but led 18-0 after 31 minutes.
The Tahs have spent months talking about fixing their slow starts, yet nothing changed.
They've acknowledged that costly fouls have stifled their results, yet in the 38th minute hooker Tolu Latu was yellow carded for a careless trip on Damian McKenzie.
Five minutes into the second half, the Chiefs led 32-3 while Latu watched on from his sin bin chair.
The game was over, even though NSW mounted a familiar comeback to bring the deficit closer.
Deep into the second half the Tahs had climbed back to be down 39-31, only to lose the ball in their own end, allowing Chiefs winger James Lowe to cross for his hat-trick in the final minute to seal NSW's fate.
Kiwi teams are 22-0 against Aussie rivals in 2017.
An astonishing 60-metre try to prop Sekope Kepu was a highlight on a low night for NSW.
McKenzie was superb for the Chiefs, bamboozling the Tahs' defence time and again.
He opened scoring with a ninth minute penalty.
Mitchell Brown then crossed for the first try in the 15th minute after a raid on the Tahs' right-side defence.
Tricky footwork and passing from McKenzie allowed the Chiefs to build momentum before Anton Lienert-Brown broke free near the touchline and found support in winger Lowe who put flanker Brown away from 20 metres out untouched.
McKenzie's conversion was followed by his second penalty in the 22nd minute that took the home side ahead 13-0.
Nine minutes later Stephen Donald's midfield chip was gathered on the full by McKenzie, who sprinted downfield before stepping sharply to his left to draw both Israel Folau and Cameron Clark before passing to Lowe.
The winger dived over in the corner to complete a brilliant attacking move.
It took until after the halftime hooter for NSW to get on the board, with Bernard Foley's penalty from in front making the score 18-3 at the break.
The Chiefs stormed into the second half with their one-man advantage as Lowe and Tawera Kerr-Barlow scored in the 41st and 44th minutes.
It took until the 50th minute for NSW to cross, via a 42-metre intercept try from Rob Horne.
Will Skelton then crashed over from a rolling maul, however Kerr-Barlow scored his second try in the 60th minute to keep the visitors at bay.
Clark scored a try from a scrum move in the 73rd, and two minutes later Folau set Kepu free down the wing.
The tight-head beat three tacklers on a wonderful run before scoring in the corner, ensuring his name will live on through the ages whenever the 'greatest tries by front rowers' highlight reels are compiled.
It was a hit in a year of near misses.