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REACTION: 'I'm proud of our guys'- Tahs captain looks to 2023 as Chiefs make it one Aussie side standing

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4th June, 2022
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Another sudden death Super Rugby quarter-final. Another ‘brave’ but ultimately outclassed Australian side losing to a Kiwi one. And another game in which the score probably didn’t represent the competitiveness of the contest.

Like the Reds against the Crusaders, the Waratahs didn’t lose any fans with their effort against the Chiefs in Hamilton. Yet, ultimately, handling errors (15) and missed goals (3) saw the Tahs go down fighting with an unflattering 39-15 scoreline.

Harry Jones and Brett McKay are joined by NZ writer Jamie Wall to look at the crisis engulfing the All Blacks in the latest Roar Rugby Podcast. Stream it here or in your app of choice

The Waratahs made critical errors at critical times – including running the ball sideways while within their 22 and numerically out-numbered – while the Chiefs were patient and cool, and made them pay with typically clinical counter-attack.

Tahs captain Jake Gordon told Stan Sport the Chiefs were ‘exceptional’ on counter.

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“Credit to the Chiefs, they’re a classy outfit and they had the wood on us all year,” Gordon said.

“They’re really hard to contain with front-foot ball and they really punish you for your mistakes.

“I’m proud of our guys though. It was a big year for the club and the franchise and there’s plenty of growth left in us. Next year should be pretty exciting with our colts a year older and more experienced.

Chiefs captain Brad Weber, who scored two tries, said the win was ‘incredibly satisfying’.

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“I’ve been here nine years and it’s the first home final we’ve played. It was pretty cool to see all the fans here and we’re very pleased we could put on a show,” Weber said.

It was an odd enough show, at times quite entertaining, at others a grinding bore.

A beautiful play in the seventh minute was an example of the former – a long lineout throw by Samisoni Taukei’aho went over the back straight to the five-eighth, Bryan Gatland, who turned and threw a tasty ball back to Weber on the loop. The halfback scythed through a hole and burned them all to go under the posts.

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The Tahs hit back. Angus Ball and Ned Hanigan made hard charges before a quality grubber from Lalakai Foketi bounced for Dylan Pietsch, who leapt over in the corner.

Tane Edmed curled in the conversion from the paint.

And the visitors kept on coming, Mark Nawaqanitawase tearing down the left. Penalties came – and their period of dominance was rewarded when Edmed kicked a goal and squared it up 10-all after 20 minutes.

But the Chiefs didn’t take long to respond. Luke Jacobson, in for injured All Blacks flanker Sam Cane, spat out of a rolling maul.

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Ben Donaldson was hammered by Brodie Retallick, back from Japan. Pressure again begat a penalty for the Tahs – but Edmed hooked the shot from in front.

Turning point? It was written in these e-pages.

Pietsch won a turnover at the ruck – a winger, that never used to be a thing.

Then: disaster. The Waratahs chanced their arm well inside their 22, Donaldson went to Edmed, who ran a 45-degree angle and fired a dud pass wide. The bouncing ball was toed through and plunged upon by Alex Nankivell.

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Fair enough to have a crack – but make sure you have an overlap, not the other way around.

The conversion made it 24-10. Nek minnit, as they say, the Chiefs took the points instead of going for it with a five-metre scrum.

At half-time it was 27-15 when it could’ve, should’ve, would’ve been closer… had Edmed landed the goal, and a few other things happened. As it stood, Darren Coleman had some motivating to do.
Yet it’s clear the 49-year-old Shute Shield wunderkind has some special sauce. Foketi sent Will Harris away down the right. Soon enough Harris was away again when a ball was spilled and Michael Hooper fed the long-striding No.8, who ran 50 metres to score.

Then, for the next 15 minutes, the game turned to mush, before the Chiefs killed it once and for all. Weber scored after a pass more forward than Fonzie in a nightclub before Pita Gus Sowakula plunged over from one metre out.

And that, as they say, was that.

One wonders when Australian rugby players will get sick of being ‘brave’ and work out what to do to beat the clinical, counter-attacking cousins from across the ditch.

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