The Reds prove they’re back
The Reds came out on top in a flurry of try scoring either side of halftime to score a 42-27 win over the Chiefs at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Sunday to announce in no uncertain terms that the Vodacom Super Rugby champions are back in the race.
It has been a slow start for the 2011 winners, with injuries preventing them from getting the zip and momentum of last season. However in recent weeks they have started to show signs of a revival, and on Sunday they proved it by scoring five tries against a team that had previously only lost one game in the competition and had been unbeaten since February.
The bonus-point win keeps the Reds in touch with Australian conference log leaders, the Brumbies, who they play after facing the Lions in Brisbane next week. On this form it would take a brave person to bet against the Reds making up further lost ground in those two matches, and with Quade Cooper’s return from injury on the horizon, they are hitting form at the right time.
It didn’t look like turning out positively for them just before halftime, however, and the visitors played their part in making this match well worth giving up time on a Sunday to watch. The Chiefs had scored three quick tries just before halftime to change the complexion of what looked like being a close game, and when they led 22-8 at the halfway hooter, they looked like they were taking control.
However the Reds reaped dividends for their decision to kick a penalty to the corner rather at posts, and after a follow up penalty awarded by referee Marius Jonker in the Chiefs’ red zone, a long pass to Ben Lucas saw the flyhalf with enough space to evade the Chiefs defence and score a converted try that made the halftime score 22-15.
A long low kick-off started the second half perfectly for the Reds, with Scott Higginbotham bursting over in the 42nd minute after receiving the ball from a recycle on the Chiefs line. Suddenly Mike Harris was in position to equalise the scores with the conversion, which he did.
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Four minutes later the Reds went into the lead when Will Genia, now back to his best and most dangerous form, ran more than 40 metres before angling himself past Liam Messam to score in the left corner. Harris converted, and then again three minutes after that when hooker Saia Fainga’a burrowed through at another loose scrum on the Chiefs’ line.
Within the space of 13 minutes either side of halftime, a 14-point Chiefs lead had been turned into a 14-point deficit. The Chiefs struck back almost immediately with another brilliantly worked try to go with the three they had scored in the first half, with the ball going quickly through the hands to the left and fullback Horrell creating the space for Aseli Tikoirotuma to score in the corner.
Aaron Cruden wasn’t able to nail the conversion, which left the Chiefs more than a score adrift, and that proved crucial in the final quarter of the game as the Chiefs had enough attacking opportunities but the Reds kept the scoreboard ticking over with a Harris drop-goal and then a penalty to make sure of the bonus-point win.
The Reds had started the game nervously but were the first to score when Harris intercepted a poor Chiefs pass intended for Cruden. Harris didn’t have the pace to round off himself but he had Dom Shipperly with him and the winger scored in the corner to make it 5-0 to the home team after four minutes.
Cruden and Harris then traded penalties before the Chiefs produced what can only be described as a sublime
three-try blitz that might have left an inferior team to the Reds dead and buried. The first try came on the 30 minute mark, Richard Kahui setting it up with a superb run and off-load down the left flank, before Cruden slanted across field near the line for Sonny Bill Williams to straighten and score.
Williams then created an overlap to the right for Messam to cross in the 32nd minute, and the Chiefs were celebrating with understandable gusto when another flashy attack involving Sonny Bill and company eventually saw Samo Taumalolo bash his way over from close range three minutes before halftime.
Unfortunately for the Chiefs they lost the excellent Kahui to what looked a wrist or forearm injury just before that try, and along with the defeat that will be a concern to them as they look forward to the rest of the competition.
Reds – Tries: Dom Shipperley, Ben Lucas, Scott Higginbotham, Will Genia, Saia Faingaa. Conversions: Mike Harris (4). Penalties: Harris (2). Drop goal: Harris.
Chiefs – Tries: Sonny Bill Williams, Liam Messam, Sona Taumalolo, Asaeli Tikoirotuma. Conversions: Aaron Cruden (2). Penalty: Cruden.