Waikato Chiefs scramble to last-minute victory

The Waikato Chiefs scrambled to a 20-17 Super 14 victory over the New South Wales Waratahs in Hamilton on Saturday thanks to a last-gasp penalty from Stephen Donald.

In a volatile final eight minutes, the Waratahs fought back from a 5-17 deficit to level the scores—only to see Donald break the deadlock with a minute to spare.

But the Waratahs should have wrapped the game up much earlier, and it was their own errors rather than the Chiefs’ pressure that counted against them.

Tom Carter threw the ball into touch, missing an unmarked Timana Tahu. Lachie Turner twice kicked the ball out on the full and Luke Burgess kicked it over the deadball line when a running attack was on.

“We put ourselves in a position to win that game at the end,” said captain Phil Waugh. “We had a pretty strong wind behind us in the second half and just didn’t put the finishing touches.
We had enough turnover ball, but then we’d kick the ball out on the full or dead and just put us under pressure.”

The Chiefs were comfortably in front just after half-time, leading 17-0 before the Waratahs worked their way into the match.

Flyhalf Kurtley Beale had an opportunity to put the Waratahs ahead when Lote Tuqiri scored the equalising try with four minutes remaining, but missed his conversion attempt.

The Chiefs led 12-0 at half-time after Liam Messam and Sitiveni Sivivatu scored tries by exploiting defensive weaknesses in the Waratahs side.

All Blacks wing Sivivatu, playing his 50th Super 14 match, ran from the halfway line to score under the posts without a hand being laid on him. Television replays indicated he may not have correctly grounded the ball, but referee Marius Jonker never sought an opinion from the third match official.

Minutes after the turnaround, Richard Kahui scored the Chiefs’ third try with a 30m burst, dragging Waratahs fullback Turner for the last 5m.

Kahui injured his ankle in the move and left the field, and minutes later his opposite number Ben Jacobs carved through the makeshift Chiefs back line to open the Waratahs’ account.

Going into the final 10 minutes, the Waratahs still trailed by 12 points before Sam Harris scored an intercept try, which Beale converted before Tuqiri touched down to level the scores at 17-all.

It was then the Chiefs’ chance to stage one last attack and they were rewarded with the Waratahs penalised for offside at a ruck, leaving Donald to kick the winner.—Sapa-AFP

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