The NSW Waratahs have endured a winless Super Rugby season for the first time after falling 40-7 to the Chiefs in Sydney.
Winger Sean Wainui bagged five tries as the Chiefs consigned the Waratahs to an unprecedented winless campaign with a record-extending 13th straight defeat on Saturday night.
A dislocated shoulder to classy centre Izaia Perese only compounded the Tahs’ woes and provided a selection headache for Wallabies coach Dave Rennie in the process.
Far and away the Waratahs’ best performer this year, Perese would almost certainly have been named in Rennie’s squad on Sunday for the looming three-Test series with France.
But the powerhouse midfielder came off a sorry second-best after a late first-half tackle on Chiefs opposite number Alex Nankivell.
“It (the tackle) didn’t have to be made,” former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said during commentary on Stan.
“We saw it previously in some of the clips – Izzy Perese going in making tackles he doesn’t need to.
“And if you see it, he’s looking for the big contact – no grip, no arm around – so it’s really unfortunate because’s been very talismanic.
“He’s made some great breaks tonight even for the Tahs. Very disappointing.”
While tossing up the likes of Hunter Paisami or moving Matt Toomua into the centres, Australia’s two-time World Cup-winner Tim Horan urged Rennie to blood 22-year-old Brumbies Len Ikitau instead.
“I actually think you need to start looking to the future,” Horan said.
“You know what Matt Toomua can do. I think you put the young kids in and give them a crack early on.”
As they have been in many other games this year, the Waratahs were gritty against a Chiefs outfit also out of finals contention.
The youthful Tahs showed a glimpse of their promise when fullback Mark Nawaqanitawase soared high to reel in a well-placed cross-field bomb from flyhalf Will Harrison just before halftime.
Their lone try reduced the deficit to 14-7.
But two more tries after the break to Wainui, followed by the Chiefs’ fifth try through replacement Tom Florence, sealed the Waratahs’ fate.
Back-rower Lachie Swinton faces a possible suspension and omission from the French series after being red-carded late on for a careless tackle on Chiefs flanker Lachlan Boshier.