Replacement hooker John Ulugia scored a late try to get the New South Wales Waratahs over the line with a 25-20 upset of the defending champion Chiefs in Sydney yesterday.
The Chiefs started slowly and trailed 15-0 at the break, but came storming home to snatch a two-point lead when big prop Ben Tameifuna barged over in the 73rd minute.
Waratahs flyhalf Bernard Foley laid off a delightful short pass to Ulugia, however, who thundered 10m to cross near the posts in the 77th minute and break the Chiefs’ hearts at Allianz Stadium.
The victory was the Waratahs’ fourth from eight matches, keeping their playoff hopes alive at the halfway mark of the season.
The Waratahs opened the scoring with a penalty goal in the third minute and dominated possession and territory.
Adam Ashley-Cooper made the Chiefs pay for slack defending when he burst through a gaping hole before passing outside to winger Cam Crawford who cantered over for an easy try in the 15th minute.
The Chiefs held firm until a sublime passage of play resulted in the Waratahs’ second try two minutes before halftime.
Flyhalf Brendan McKibbin found space in front of the posts, but chipped a kick toward the left corner where soaring fullback Israel Folau caught the ball between two defenders and glided 5m over the line without breaking stride.
Gareth Anscombe blew the Chiefs’ lone scoring attempt for the half when he shanked a penalty kick wide after the siren to leave the visitors trailing 15-0 at the break.
The Waratahs took the pressure off a few minutes after the re-start when lock Sitaleki Timani was sent off for a high tackle on substitute back Tim Nanai-Williams.
The Chiefs lifted their intensity and were rewarded in the 48th minute when Aaron Cruden slipped past Ashley-Cooper and fed Anscombe on the left wing.
Anscombe bounced off one tackler and bolted over the line for the Chiefs’ first score, and after slotting another two penalty goals, brought the visitors within five points by the 62nd minute.
The Chiefs drove toward the line in furious bursts, and when Tameifuna spun around to plant the ball by the posts, appeared set to close out victory.
However, Ulugia snatched back the lead and the Waratahs defended grimly to seal the win.
HURRICANES V FORCE
The Wellington Hurricanes resurrected their Super Rugby season after a heavy defeat at the hands of the Auckland Blues with a 22-16 victory over a stubborn Western Force side in their clash at Wellington Regional Stadium yesterday.
The victory, courtesy of tries to Jeffrey Toomaga-Allen, Brad Shields and Tusi Pisi and seven points from Beauden Barrett’s boot moved the Hurricanes back into playoffs contention on 27 points.