Folau, Hooper inspire Waratahs win over Chiefs
Three tries conceded to the Waratahs around the three-quarter mark hit the Chiefs who were unable to utilise territorial advantage as the Waratahs claimed a key 45-25 Investec Super Rugby win in Sydney on Friday.
The 12-minute blitz turned around an 18-17 Chiefs lead as 20 unanswered points were scored.
It had been an uncontrolled, and at times unstructured, Waratahs approach before they found form and substance on the back of centre Israel Folau and skipper and flanker Michael Hooper's play, backed by locks Dean Mumm and Dave Dennis and first five-eighths Bernard Foley.
Hooper created the first of the three tries that did the damage when from broken play he flicked a long ball from the shadow of the goalposts for waiting fullback Andrew Kellaway to score.
Then almost from the re-start the Waratahs stormed back into the Chiefs 22m area and Foley gave Hooper the pass for him to get over for his second try.
Six minutes later it was Folau who carried the ball back into the Chiefs 22m area, and then when they set up camp and attempted to move the ball halfback Nick Phipps back-handed a ball to Folau which hit the ground but fell to Folau for the try.
The Chiefs were left shell-shocked having made much of the play but responded in the 66th minute when first five-eighths Aaron Cruden slipped a cross-kick to wing Tony Pulu for the simplest of tries.
As the Chiefs fought to get back within touch, they turned over ball and there was something ironic in replacement forward Jack Dempsey delivering the knockout blow five minutes from the end with his try.
Down 13-17 at the break, the Chiefs regained the lead, seven minutes into the second half, courtesy of a well-constructed try to hooker Nathan Harris, resulting from some fine handling and build-up work by wing James Lowe and No.8 Tom Sanders, initially, and then by Cruden to get Harris over in the corner.
The Chiefs dominated territory throughout the first half but it was ironic that the two occasions the Waratahs got into their territory they scored tries.
The first was purely opportunistic when the Chiefs were hot on attack and running at the line only to have halfback Brad Weber's pass get picked up by Folau and he made it 95m downfield to score after six minutes.
A bad blue by Phipps in-goal, when he failed to hang onto centre Seta Tamanivalu's kick through, saw the big Chiefs centre storming up after his kick and grabbing the spoils to score.
Then in the 18th minute some superb interplay on the blindside from Weber, McKenzie and first five-eighths Aaron Cruden saw the latter cross.
While No.8 Wycliff Palu was in the sin-bin for a high tackle, fullback Damian McKenzie landed a penalty goal, but just before the half-time hooter a breakout from a maul on halfway saw lock Will Skelton break into space and when challenged he found Hooper in support and the pass was slipped for the skipper to score.
Scorers: Waratahs 45 (Israel Folau 2, Michael Hooper 2, Andrew Kelleway, Jack Dempsey tries; Bernard Foley 6 con, pen) Chiefs 25 (Seta Tamanivalu, Aaron Cruden, Nathan Harris, Tony Pulu tries; Damian McKenzie con, pen). HT: 17-13