Wellington (AFP) – A late penalty try saw the Waikato Chiefs sneak home over the Auckland Blues 21-19, while the NSW Waratahs picked up their first bonus point with a seven-try hiding of the Sunwolves in Super Rugby on Saturday.
When the Chiefs lost playmaker Damian McKenzie after half an hour, the Blues rallied to hit the front 19-14 by half-time. They did not surrender the lead until a costly yellow card saw their scrum falter seven minutes from the final whistle.
The result lifted the Chiefs to five wins from six games while the Blues sank to one win from six.
The Waratahs, meanwhile improved their record to four wins and a draw from six games. But despite a crushing victory in Tokyo their lack of bonus points kept them second in the Australian conference behind the Melbourne Rebels.
In Hamilton the Blues had seemed on track to break their unwanted record of no away victories against the neighbouring Chiefs since 2011.
They defended heroically for most of the second half to protect a five-point lead until lock Jack Goodhue was yellow-carded and an underpowered Blues scrum conceded the match-winning seven-point penalty try for the Chiefs.
“We created plenty of opportunities throughout the game but, gee, we didn’t finish many,” said a relieved Chiefs captain Sam Cane.
“What was pleasing was we didn’t get too frustrated: the composure in the last 15 (minutes) was pretty pleasing.”
Blues captain James Parson was pleased with his side’s improvement in defence and discipline compared to last week’s shellacking by the Coastal Sharks, although in the end it was discipline that let them down.
“Ill-discipline has cost us the game, the yellow card, and obviously you saw what happened at scrum time. The big factor was we were down a man and they took it to us and got the penalty try,” Parsons said.
The Blues made a promising start, with penalties by Stephen Perofeta in the first and third minutes putting them up 6-0.
The Chiefs came into the game with a penalty to McKenzie, who followed up by doubling around Johnny Faauli to send Sean Wainui over, and 10 minutes into the game the home side were in front.
But no Chiefs player would score again against the tightened Blues defence.
McKenzie and Perofeta traded penalties to have the Chiefs ahead 14-9 when McKenzie left the field, and the Blues regained the lead with a try to Parsons converted by Perofeta, who also landed a fourth penalty.
It put the Blues five points ahead, a margin they held for 35 minutes until the Chiefs’ late penalty try.
In Tokyo, scrum-half Jake Gordon bagged two tries as the Waratahs overpowered the winless Sunwolves 50-29.
After the score was locked at 7-all early on, the Waratahs powered away to outscore the Sunwolves seven tries to four.
The Sunwolves, bottom in the Australia conference, host the bottom New Zealand team the Blues in Tokyo next weekend.