Super Rugby Pacific: Chiefs preserve unbeaten start with hardfought win over NSW Waratahs

Winger Emoni Narawa has scored two late tries - including the eventual match-clincher - to overcome NSW Waratahs 24-14 at Sydney and remain unbeaten in Super Rugby Pacific 2023.

Damian McKenzie celebrated his 100th Super Rugby appearance for the Chiefs in appropriate fashion, but the performance left much to be desired, with seemingly endless handling errors from both sides.

Locked 7-7 at halftime, neither side seemed capable of breaking the deadlock, although McKenzie edged his ahead with a penalty from just inside halfway soon after the break.

Etene Nanai-Seturo in action against the Waratahs
Etene Nanai-Seturo in action against the Waratahs. Photo credit: Getty Images

The turning point came, when Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan injected his two trump cards off the bench - in-form fullback Shaun Stevenson and All Blacks hooker Samisoni Taukei'aho.

Within seconds, Narawa had his first try, after Taukei'aho was dragged down just short of the tryline. 

Waratahs pulled that back through a lineout try to flanker Michael Hooper, but with five minutes remaining, Narawa benefited from a speculator kick from Stevenson into the right corner, chasing and rolling over for the decider with no defenders near him.

"It was a real armwrestle... we were describing it like that at halftime too," admitted Chiefs captain Sam Cane. "To be fair, it was what we expected.

"The Waratahs, despite some results not going their way, are a quality outfit, and we were hoping tonight they didn't click and put all the pieces together.

"Tonight, we're really pleased to grind out a tough win. They're not always pretty, but you take a lot of confidence from those, because they're real character games, and it's nice to get a good win for our mate Damian on his 100th."

First-five Bryn Gatland opened the scoring with a try from an attacking lineout in just the third minute, but Gatland gifted the Waratahs an intercept response, when halfback Jake Gordon pounced on a pass and raced 40 metres to score.

Attacking opportunities were squandered through basic errors, until the Chiefs bench provided the spark needed to seperate themselves from their rivals.

The result - along with ACT Brumbies' loss to the Crusaders - leaves the Chiefs as the only remaining unbeaten team in Super Rugby Pacific 2023, but they host the Blues next Saturday. 

Chiefs 24 (Gatland & Narawa 2 tries; McKenzie 3 conversions & penalty) Waratahs 14 (Gordon & Hooper tries; Donaldson 2 conversions) 

Join Newshub at 4:30pm Saturday for live updates of the Highlanders v Fijian Drua Super Rugby Pacific clash