Aaron Cruden (SuperSport)
Hamilton - A shaven-headed Chiefs team bided their time before smashing the Waratahs in the second half to win their Super Rugby clash 30-13 at Waikato Stadium on Saturday.
The Chiefs players, sporting sheer hair-cuts to raise money for charity, scored two tries after the break and conceded only three points to notch their fourth win of the season from five matches.
"It's good to get back in front of the home crowd and grind out a win," said Chiefs captain Craig Clarke in a pitchside interview.
"That's good to just be playing winning rugby, it's fun to be a part of (but) we're off on a road trip now and we've got a lot of hard work in front of us," added Clarke of their three-match tour of Australia and South Africa.
The Waratahs held more than 72% of the territory in the first half but still found themselves trailing 13-10 at the break.
Winger Tom Kingston put the visitors on the board in the fifth minute with a try, slicing through a pack of players to take a quick inside pass and reaching his arms behind him to plant the ball on the line.
The Chiefs made the most of their few chances, however, and levelled at 7-7 after livewire winger Tim Nanai-Williams cut the Waratahs defence to shreds with a breathtaking run through midfield.
Nanai-Williams's incursion allowed the Chiefs to spread the ball wide where fullback Robbie Robinson crossed in the left corner.
Aaron Cruden slotted a 47-metre penalty kick to cancel out one from Brendan McKibbin a few minutes earlier and the All Black flyhalf drilled a second after Wycliff Palu strayed offside directly in front of the posts.
The Waratahs were frustrated by several fruitless drives to the line in the final minutes of the first half, and had the wind taken out of their sales minutes after the break when Sona Taumalolo crossed for the Chiefs' second try.
Sonny Bill Williams dribbled a poor kick straight into a defender's legs but the deflection cannoned into the path of charging outside centre Richard Kahui, who scooped up the ball and fed it wide to prop Taumalolo for a soft try in the right corner.
Cruden slotted his third penalty kick in the 62nd minute to stretch the advantage to 10 points and flanker Liam Messam delivered the match-sealing try five minutes later after a demoralising turnover by the Waratahs.
Replacement Sam Cane intercepted a pass out of a ruck intended for Sarel Pretorius and fed Tawera Kerr-Barlow, who sprinted down the right wing before passing inside to Messam for an easy try.
Cruden converted to maintain a perfect six-from-six kicking game and a fatigued Waratahs side never looked like clawing their way back into the game.
Tries: Robbie Robinson, Sona Taumalolo, Liam Messam.
Conversions: Aaron Cruden (3)
Penalties: Cruden (3)
Try: Tom Kingston
Conversion: Brendan McKibbin
Penalties: McKibbin (2)
15. Robbie Robinson, 14. Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 13. Richard Kahui, 12. Sonny Bill Williams, 11. Tim Nanai-Williams, 10. Aaron Cruden, 9. Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8. Kane Thompson, 7. Tanerau Latimer, 6. Liam Messam, 5. Brodie Retallick, 4. Craig Clarke (captain), 3. Ben Tameifuna, 2. Hikawera Elliott, 1. Sona Taumalolo
Substitutes: 16. Mahonri Schwalger, 17. Josh Hohneck, 18. Michael Fitzgerald, 19. Sam Cane, 20. Augustine Pulu, 21. Andrew Horrell, 22. Lelia Masaga
15 Bernard Foley, 14 Tom Kingston, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Tom Carter, 11 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 10 Berrick Barnes, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson (captain)
Substitutes: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 Sitaleki Timani, 19 Lopeti Timani, 20 Jono Jenkins, 21 Sarel Pretorius, 22 Daniel Halangahu