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Ruthless Chiefs send Reds packing

MATCH REPORT: The Reds’ season of high hopes and promise has ended in disappointment with a 21-43 submission to the Chiefs in the opening Super Rugby Pacific quarterfinal in Hamilton.

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The ruthless and clinical Chiefs ran in four unanswered first-half tries to lead 31-0 at the break and set up the demolition job on the Reds at Waikato Stadium.

With three victories over New Zealand opposition for the first time since 2013, including a watershed win over the defending champion Crusaders in Christchurch and round-three defeat of the Chiefs in Brisbane, the Reds truly believed they were title contenders in 2024.

But their dreams were shattered inside 15 minutes on Friday when the Chiefs raced to a 21-0 lead through an early try-scoring double to hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho and one to wing Emoni Narawa.

Ferocious at the breakdown, the Chiefs dominated physically.

But it was a brilliant chip from master playmaker Damian McKenzie and regather and kick-on from fullback Shaun Stevenson that set up the Chiefs’ fourth try – finished by Etene Nanai-Seturo – and match-winning half-time lead.

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The Reds briefly threatened a fightback with the first try of the second half through co-captain and Wallabies No.9 Tate McDermott.

But normal service resumed as All Black ace Anton Lienert-Brown crossed for the Chiefs’ fifth try in the 55th minute to extend to the hosts’ insurmountable lead to 38-7.

McDermott grabbed a second for the Reds but it was merely a consolation.

Queensland’s tails-between-the-legs exit from the competition leaves the Brumbies as Australia’s best chance of breaking the Kiwis’ decade-long trans-Tasman stranglehold on the Super Rugby title.

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But as well as needing to take out the Highlanders in Canberra on Saturday, the Brumbies are now relying on the soon-to-be-extinct Melbourne Rebels upsetting the table-topping Hurricanes to secure a home semifinal.

Otherwise the Brumbies will be heading to New Zealand needing to become the first Australian team to win a finals match across the Tasman to remain in the title hunt.

The scorers:

For Chiefs:
Tries: Taukei’aho 2, Narawa, Nanai-Seturo, Lienert-Brown, Slater,
Cons: McKenzie 5
Pen: McKenzie

For Reds:
Tries: McDermott 2, Creighton
Cons: Lynagh 2, Creighton

Teams:

Chiefs: 15 Shaun Stevenson, 14 Emoni Narawa, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, , 12 Rameka Poihipi, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Cortez Ratima, 8 Wallace Sititi, 7 Luke Jacobson (captain), 6 Samipeni Finau, 5 Tupou Vaa’i, 4 Jimmy Tupou, 3 George Dyer, 2 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 1 Aidan Ross.
Replacements: 16 Bradley Slater, 17 Jared Proffit, 18 Reuben O’Neill, 19 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 20 Simon Parker, 21 Xavier Roe, 22 Quinn Tupaea, 23 Daniel Rona

Reds: 15 Jock Campbell, 14 Tim Ryan, 13 Josh Flook, 12 Hunter Paisami, 11 Mac Grealy, 10 Tom Lynagh, 9 Tate McDermott (co-captain), 8 John Bryant, 7 Fraser McReight, 6 Liam Wright (co-captain), 5 Ryan Smith, 4 Seru Uru, 3 Jeffrey Toomaga-Allen, 2 Matt Faessler, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Replacements: 16 Josh Nasser, 17 Sef Fa’agase, 18 Zane Nonggorr, 19 Connor Vest, 20 Joe Brial, 21 Kalani Thomas, 22 Lawson Creighton, 23 Taj Annan

Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant referees: Stu Curran and Jackson Henshaw
TMO: Glenn Newman

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