Reigning champions the Queensland Reds kept alive their Super Rugby title defense with an exhilarating 42-27 victory to end the Waikato Chiefs’ nine-match winning run in Brisbane, Australia, yesterday.
The Reds rocked the New Zealand Conference leaders with four tries in 11 minutes either side of halftime to grab a winning break and make up some ground on Australian Conference front-runners the ACT Brumbies.
The Chiefs looked set for a 10th consecutive win when they stormed to a 22-8 lead minutes before the interval, but the Reds kick-started a winning fightback with a converted try after the halftime siren.
Ben Lucas darted over wide out and in the 11 minutes after the resumption, the Reds powered in three more converted tries to race to a 36-22 lead.
That culminated a helter-skelter period of 47 points in 21 minutes as the Chiefs conceded their first four-try bonus point of the season against the rampant Reds.
Waikato got to within nine points with a 59th-minute try from winger Asaeli Tikoirotuma, but Mike Harris kept the home side handily in front with a drop-goal and a penalty in the final 15 minutes.
Despite the loss, the Chiefs increased their lead over the Canterbury Crusaders to eight points in the New Zealand Conference with a four-try bonus point, while the Crusaders went down in a boilover to the Rebels in Melbourne, Australia, on Saturday.
Harris finished with 17 points from four conversions, two penalties and a drop-goal, while Wallaby scrumhalf Will Genia scored the pick of Queensland’s five tries with a 60m runaway effort.
Reds fullback Luke Morahan was fortunate not to receive a yellow card for a tipping tackle on All Black Sonny Bill Williams when the linesman could not identify him as the offending player, even though the Chiefs received the penalty.
Morahan further compounded Waikato’s woes when he brought off two try-saving tackles in the 10 minutes when he should have been off the field in the sin bin.
“We had to really give it to them at the start of the second half and set it up, and credit to our guys, we did that,” Reds skipper James Horwill said. “We knew they were a very good defensive side and they fan quite well, so we had to dent their defensive line and we did that close to the ruck.”
The Chiefs paid further for only their second loss of the season with All Black outside back Richard Kahui coming off with a dislocated shoulder nearing halftime.
“We were definitely outplayed, especially just after halftime when the Reds got on a roll, and took us on around the fringes and got a couple of tries,” Chiefs skipper Craig Clarke said. “I guess the areas where we will be working on are around the fringes of the ruck, where they took us on, and the lineout drive, where they scored, but the other parts of our game were pretty good.”