Chiefs run riot over Waratahs

Chiefs players celebrate a try by Anton Lienert-Brown. Photo: Getty
Chiefs players celebrate a try by Anton Lienert-Brown. Photo: Getty
The Chiefs set the bar in the opening stages of this Super Rugby season, only to be stunned at home by the Brumbies.

After stewing on that defeat for two weeks, the extended period including the bye, they returned to confirm their title credentials with a 51-14 win in Wollongong.

There was a patchy nature to the Chiefs' performance in the first half – Warren Gatland won't be happy with the way they let the Waratahs back into the match. But their response after falling behind by one point at halftime was emphatic and will again have the competition on notice.

Two tries in four minutes straight after the break from All Blacks halfback Brad Weber – the second featuring a sumptuous Shaun Stevenson offload – kicked the Chiefs clear. They then piled on the misery for the Waratahs by scoring six second-half tries.

The Chiefs' 38-0 second half performance was no fluke, either. They have now outscored their opponents 120-25 in second spells this season. Whatever Gatland and his assistants are saying at half time is, clearly, working.

In the end, this was all too easy for the Chiefs; the Waratahs made to look well out of their depth.

Come the pointy end of the season, it would be a major surprise if the Chiefs do not challenge for the title. Containing their multiple threats will continue to prove a difficult task.

Not only did the Chiefs snap their 13-year drought against the Waratahs in Australia with ease, but this is the most points they have scored against the Tahs across the ditch.

That was achieved without Damian McKenzie, who is on All Blacks rest duties. In his absence the back three of Solomon Alaimalo, Stevenson and Sean Wainui all scored tries and all performed their core tasks well.

With his side well in control, Gatland even had the luxury of replacing influential leaders Aaron Cruden and Sam Cane after 56 minutes.

The highlight reel will showcase offloads and breaks but the Chiefs forward pack set the tone with their work at the breakdown and on the counter ruck in particular. Several times they blew the Waratahs off their own ball and snaffled turnovers to provide the lethal counter attack possession New Zealand sides so crave.

The Waratahs are not one of this year's leading lights – their sole victory from five attempts coming at home last week over fellow strugglers the Lions – but they had won eight of 10 home games against the Chiefs previously, and were right in the fight at halftime.

Watching his men hold the Waratahs scoreless in the second spell will be one of the most pleasing aspects for Gatland, who will now switch focus to preparing the Chiefs for the Hurricanes in Hamilton next week before contemplating the two-week South African trip.

Everything went to plan early for the Chiefs. Their work at the breakdown was excellent, with Pita Gus Sowakula, Cane and the irrepressible Lachlan Boshier all shining.

Boshier again made his presence felt on defence and at the lineout too.

Dominance at the breakdown slowed the Waratahs ball, earned turnovers and penalties – the 6-1 advantage in their favour allowing the Chiefs to control much of the early ball and territory.

Cruden ticked the points over and he then had two touches in setting up Alaimalo's opening strike.

At 13-0, it seemed as though this would be a breezy night for the Chiefs. They probably should have led by more.

While Cruden was pivotal on many occasions, he pushed one penalty in-front and missed touch from a kick which would have given the Chiefs an attacking lineout inside the Waratahs 22.

For a brief period in the first half the Waratahs threatened to challenge. Loose forwards Michael Hooper and Jack Dempsey got the Waratahs on the front foot with strong carries and offloads began to stick.

Karmichael Hunt and Kurtley Beale combined on the cutback to expose the drifting Chiefs defence. Hooper was held up over the line and when Dempsey crashed over, the Waratahs stole a 14-13 half time lead.

When Weber went bang bang after halftime, that resistance proved nothing more than an aberration.

For now at least, doubts about the Chiefs can be put to bed.

They're back on top.

Chiefs 51 (Brad Weber 2, Shaun Stevenson, Sean Wainui, Lachlan Boshier, Solomon Alaimalo, Anton Lienert-Brown tries; Aaron Cruden 3 cons, pen, Kaleb Trask 3 cons), Waratahs 14 (Kurtley Beale, Jack Dempsey triesl Will Harrison 2 cons). HT: 14-13

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