The hosts held a 1-10 to 0-2 interval lead against a Waterford outfit that looked at odds with itself and the margin between the sides would have been greater but for the brilliance of the ageless Tony Browne at centre back.
Yet Waterford though were a changed side on the restart. Eoin Murphy added solidity to a defence alongside Browne while the introduction of Stephen Molumphy and Kevin Moran into their attack also proved hugely influential as they finished within three points of the All-Ireland champions.
But the losing manger Davy Fitzgerald wasn’t too upset at the outcome pointing out: “Its all about that June 7 championship date with Clare from here on.”
Kilkenny were off to a flyer with TJ Reid, Eoin Guinan(2), and Michael Grace on target inside the first 10 minutes, and things went from bad to worse for the visitors on 12 minutes when JJ Delaney’s superb sideline cut was whipped to the net by the impressive Grace.
Waterford’s scoring drought ended after 14 minutes through their best forward, John Mullane, and when Eoin Kelly was wide from a 25 metre free within seconds of his introduction it seemed this was not going to be Waterford’s day
Kilkenny continued to own the ball but were guilty of poor finishing wracking up 11 wides in the first half. Mullane had his side’s only other score of the half as his side headed to the dressing room 11 points in arrears.
But a mixture of Fitzgerald’s interval words and his shrewd substitutions meant Waterford were a changed force on the restart. Kelly converted a rasping penalty in the 51st-minute following a foul on Shane Walsh. Despite the continued mastery of Tennyson, Waterford began making inroads into the Kilkenny defence. Moran and Molumphy were their chief attacking weapons, and the deficit was down to a goal in the 67th minute when Molumphy set up the goal chance which Moran clinically finished.
Suddenly Waterford looked capable of at least a draw, and they might well have done so had not Ken McGrath failed to capitalise on a golden goal chance a minute before the end of normal time.
That let off however was the break Kilkenny needed, and true to their champion status they finished the stronger with insurance points from Richie Hogan and Guinan.
Scorers for Kilkenny: M. Grace (1-2); TJ Reid (0-5); E. Guinan (0-5, 1f); R. Hogan (0-5, 4f, 1 ‘65’); J. Fitzpatrick, P. Hogan (f), E. Larkin (0-1) each.
Scorers for Waterford: E. Kelly(1-5, 1-0 pen, 0-5 frees); K. Moran(1-1); J. Mullane(0-4); K.
McGrath, S. Molumphy(0-1) each.
Subs for Kilkenny: J. Dalton for B. Hogan (ht); P. Hogan for Delaney (ht).
Subs for Waterford: E. Kelly for Murray (26); E. Murphy for Lawlor (ht); S. Molumphy for Connors (ht); K. Moran for Casey (ht); S. Prendergast for Walsh (56).
Referee: Anthony Stapleton, Laois.