WELLINGTON – A late try by Damian McKenzie sealed a 39-27 bonus-point victory for the Chiefs over the Waratahs in their Super Rugby clash in Hamilton on Saturday.
The crucial McKenzie try, his second in the match, came after the final hooter when the Waratahs were desperately trying to haul in a five-point deficit.
"It's him. He's special and he's only going to get better in the 10 jersey," Chiefs coach Colin Cooper said of McKenzie who is vying with Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo'unga to be the All Blacks fly-half.
"We had to play territory and it was a matter of which team could play in the other's half and Damian showed what he can do.
"Coming back from South Africa and a short turn round, to get five points is pretty special."
There were nine tries in the high-paced game, six to the Chiefs who led 19-14 at half-time and now move to fifth on the overall ladder.
The Waratahs, denied a bonus point by McKenzie's late try, were left clinging to a one-point lead in the Australian conference.
A week ago the Waratahs were celebrating after snapping a 40-match losing streak by Australian sides against New Zealand rivals when they thrashed the Otago Highlanders 41-12.
The confidence flowed into their start in Hamilton when they chalked up 14 points in quicker than even time with Bernard Foley converting tries by Cam Clarke and Curtis Rona which were both the result of Kurtley Beale's vision.
But the Chiefs' intention to kick and chase from all corners took the sting out of the Waratahs in the second quarter allowing the home side to bounce back with 19 unanswered points before the break.
Brodie Retallick, Nathan Harris and Damian McKenzie all touched down with McKenzie landing two conversions.
In a see-sawing second half, Foley narrowed the gap to two points with a penalty and when a try to Toni Pulu stretched the lead to seven points, the Waratahs drew level at 24-all with a converted try to Beale.
A second try to Pulu, following up a kick from the base of a scrum by Brad Weber regained the lead for the Chiefs at 29-24.
Foley and McKenzie traded penalties to take the score to 32-27 as the clock ticked past the 80-minute mark when McKenzie scored his second to settle the outcome.