Kilkenny 2-19 Waterford 2-17
All-Ireland champions Kilkenny are through to their third final in a row after a two-point replay win over Waterford at Semple Stadium.
Just one point separated the sides four minutes into injury time when Waterford's Pauric Mahony’s free dropped short into Kilkenny goalkeeper Eoin Murphy’s hands, with Richie Hogan nailing an insurance point moments later to seal the win.
The game had started in a frantic fashion with both sides finding the net twice within the opening 20 minutes.
Colin Fennelly raised two green flags inside 10 minutes for the Cats, with those scores book-ended by goals from Waterford’s Austin Gleeson and Jake Dillon.
Kilkenny led by three at half-time and retained their lead all the way to the finish, despite going 18 minutes without a score at one stage.
Midfielder Michael Fennelly was later carried off with a suspected ligament injury, which puts his All-Ireland final participation in doubt.
Having failed to better their rivals since 1959, this did not look as likely an upset as last weekend’s drawn tie, which Waterford dominated.
But somehow they found themselves just one point down after 73 minutes after inspirational sub Maurice Shanahan nailed a score.
And it looked as though the game could well finish level and head to extra-time.
But just like last week when Walter Walsh and Conor Fogarty came to the rescue, the Leinster champions found a way to survive – and this time claim victory.
"It's just outstanding hurling" - Brian Cody sums up this Kilkenny-Waterford saga https://t.co/yVNhRkCRls— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) August 13, 2016
Brian Cody’s late call to start Liam Blanchfield instead of John Power made an immediate impact as he opened the scoring after just a minute.
But Waterford soon hit back with Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh’s handpass putting Gleeson through to fire to the bottom right-hand corner of Murphy’s net after less than five minutes.
Gleeson fired over a quick point straight afterwards, but the Cats were quick to strike back.
Fennelly and Walsh combined for both of Kilkenny’s goal, the first coming after seven minutes with Fennelly firing to the bottom left-hand corner of the goal.
Walsh set up Fennelly again three minutes later to finish to the opposite corner past Stephen O’Keeffe.
The Déise goal was nearly breached for a third time after 23 minutes following a slaloming solo run from TJ Reid but O’Keeffe did well to deny the Ballyhale Shamrocks flyer.
At this stage, with Kilkenny 2-02 to 1-02 up, it looked as though Kilkenny had absorbed Waterford’s early blows to steal all the momentum.
But Gleeson was a towering presence in the middle third, roving around the centre-forward position.
Jamie Barron quickly followed that up before the Munster side struck for their second goal in a fantastic team move just before the 20-minute mark.
Kevin Moran played a through ball into the hands of Stephen Bennett, who quickly fed Jake Dillon to fire home.
Blanchfield continued to be a profitable introduction for Cody, hitting three first-half points, and a run of five points in seven minutes left them up at the break, 2-10 to 2-07, as Waterford had to rely on two Mahony points to keep them ticking over.
Despite their bright early start and Gleeson’s goal, the Déise struggled to ever get a grip on this game.
But somehow Waterford regained a foothold as Shanahan and Gleeson dragged them back into the game in the second half.
Mahony’s frees kept them ticking over while the Liam MacCarthy holders misfired during their barren period.
But just as it looked like they would drag the game into extra-time Mahony’s distance failed him as Murphy leapt to claim the sliotar.
The Cats worked then worked the ball down the field for Hogan to fire over the insurance point as they successfully maintained the defence of their title.
Dererk McGrath "There's no consolation in going toe-to-toe with an empire" https://t.co/biMVPMIiYH— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) August 13, 2016
Kilkenny: E Murphy; P Murphy, J Holden, S Prendergast; P Walsh (0-02), M Bergin, C Buckley; C Fogarty, M Fennelly (0-01); W Walsh (0-01), TJ Reid (0-07, 6f), L Blanchfield (0-03); E Larkin (0-01), C Fennelly (2-00), R Hogan (0-04).
Subs: L Ryan for M Fennelly 59, J Farrell for M Bergin 60, J Power for W Walsh (blood) 60-66, K Kelly for L Blanchfield 73.
Waterford: S O’Keeffe; S Fives, B Coughlan, N Connors; T De Burca, A Gleeson (1-02), Philip Mahony; J Barrron (0-02), C Gleeson; K Moran, Shane Bennett (0-02), M Walsh; Pauric Mahony (0-09, 7f), J Dillon (1-00), Stephen Bennett.
Subs: M Shanahan (0-02) for Stephen Bennett 47, P Curran for Shane Bennett 54, T Devine for J Dillon 60,
Referee: J McGrath (Westmeath).