If you take a look at what you have in $1 after your failed miss for 2, the issue will become more apparent, I think; print $1;
yields log4j.rootLogger=INFO, FILE, SYSLOG
. Essentially, you have already consumed ", SYSLOG
" by the time you get to the end of the string, so clearly that bit does not follow. A negative look-behind will actually yield what you intended:
print "has_matched $has\n" if $has =~ /^($start(\w+(,\s)?)+)(?<!$end)$/;
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