Cruden's worst game for the woeful Chiefs
Captain Aaron Cruden labelled it his worst performance in a Chiefs jersey and he was not getting any arguments from his coach Dave Rennie after last night's 33-17 loss in New Plymouth.
After an indifferent cameo off the bench last week in the defending champions' awful loss to the Hurricanes, Cruden was again slow to start against the leading Australian side as he missed touch from penalties, got caught in his 22 in two minds and generally failed to get his side's attack going.
Put simply, it was not the dress rehearsal All Blacks coach Steve Hansen was looking for ahead of Saturday's first test against England.
"It probably wasn't just the first half [he was rusty], it felt like the whole game to be fair," he said.
"I'm pretty disappointed, really. Looking back it was probably my worst game in a Chiefs jersey.
"In such a defining match, you want to put your best foot forward and I didn't do that tonight."
Captain and coach agreed that their side lacked the required intensity in the first half of the match which saw them fall behind 13-3 at the break.
Although they played better in the second half, and took the lead after replacement Bundee Aki scored twice, they could not shut the game out and conceded a penalty and try to eventually deny themselves even a bonus point.
"If you haven't got the required intensity against a side like the Waratahs, it's always going to be hard to chase down a lead," Cruden said.
Despite the loss, Rennie refused to accept a shot at winning three titles was over.
"We've got three local derbies left and we need to win them all but there is still a chance to qualify."
Back-to-back losses have seem them slip down the table, however, and it is going to take some huge improvements in a lot of areas if the Chiefs do manage to sneak into the play-offs.
The Chiefs are lacking an edge in their attack, which is clear, while they appear to be going through the motions at times when they need to be firing.
"I'm not sure," was Rennie's reaction when asked why they were lacking the intensity, particularly in the first half when Adam Ashley-Cooper ran amok off some pretty good possession the Waratahs forwards provided.
Add in the fact the Waratahs are one of the biggest sides in the competition, then they have to be regarded as genuine title contenders, even taking into account their history.
Rennie certainly was impressed but lamented his own side's lack of ability to hold on to the ball or force turnovers.
"It was costly, giving the pill back and we were lucky to be only 13-3 down at the break."
The Chiefs will stew over the sloth they have produced in the last fortnight as the side takes a 10-day break during the international window before they return and play a couple of games against Waikato and Bay Of Plenty before they try and win three derbies in a row.
For Cruden, he will just have to wait until today to find out if Hansen is forgiving enough to send him out on to Eden Park.
Waratahs 33 (Israel Folau, Dave Dennis,, Bernard Foley tries; Foley 3 pens, 2 cons, Kurtley Beale pen) Chiefs 17 (Bundee Aki 2 tries; Aaron Cruden 2 cons, pen). HT: 13-3