THE Waratahs threw away their chance at upsetting the form team of the competition with an error-riddled second-half performance against the Chiefs in Hamilton last night.
After dominating possession and forcing the New Zealanders to tackle for their lives in the first half, the Waratahs made simple error after simple error to allow the competition's most unpredictable back line to run away with the game, and any hope of a restful bye.
''We were the masters of our own destiny,'' coach Michael Foley said. ''There were four times in their 22 where we could have scored and we gave the ball back too easily. You saw in the first half we controlled it, we mauled well, Tom Kingston got across the line. That's exactly what we talked about. We were going to get four or five chances in their 22 and we didn't make the most of them.''
It was anybody's game at half-time and, at times, the Waratahs looked more clinical and intimidating than during their win against the Sharks last week.
They starved the Chiefs of ball, dominated at the set-piece, made good use of the rolling maul and forced the hosts to make three times the number of tackles.
Halfback Brendan McKibbin drew in defenders to set up a try for Kingston, who managed to nudge the ball at the line with it held between his forearms.
But the good work was undone in the second half, allowing the Chiefs to extend their 13-10 lead to 20-10 within the first five minutes.
They were not helped by the loss of talisman No.8 Wycliff Palu to hamstring tightness early in the second half but their heroic hard man was emblematic of what went wrong. A typically intimidating performance from the loose forward in the first half was marred by a bad call to dive for a ball he thought had come out of the ruck. The Waratahs were penalised and the Chiefs edged ahead.
Kingston's was the only try for the visitors. The Chiefs restricted the Waratahs to just three points in the second half, while their own forwards (Liam Messam and Arizona Taumalolo) scored a try each.
Waratahs captain Benn Robinson said the word their supporters are sick of hearing - discipline - when explaining what went wrong for his side.
''Our discipline to hold on to the ball in that second half and build pressure, we just didn't do it,'' he said.
''As Michael was saying, there were times there in that second half when we were building pressure, similar to the first half, and a poor option or a dropped ball or a missed tackle, whatever it was, and that release of pressure put the Chiefs back in the game.''
The Chief's unpredictable attack - exemplified when Sam Cane intercepted a pass out of a Waratahs scrum to set up Messam's try - was the end of the Waratahs, who could not regather themselves to capitalise on the few chances they found late in the game.
Sonny Bill Williams, talked up all week as the greatest threat to the Waratahs, saw little of the ball but made decent metres when he could.
It was the mastery of Aaron Cruden in the play-making role that led to much of the Waratahs pain. He was instrumental in spreading the ball out wide to winger Tim Nanai-Williams, and the Chiefs' set-piece got stronger the more seconds built up on the clock.
The Waratahs fourth loss from six games will mean an uncomfortable break this week for Foley and his team. They face the Force in Perth in a fortnight and will have to deal with the mental baggage of their upset one-point loss to them in round four.
CHIEFS 30 (Liam Messam, Robbie Robinson, Arizona Taumalolo tries Aaron Cruden 3 cons 3 pens) bt NSW WARATAHS 13 (Tom Kingston try Brendan McKibbin con 2 pens) at Waikato Stadium. Referee: Mike Fraser.