The Chiefs improved their standing in the New Zealand conference with a gripping 19-13 win over the Reds in Hamilton on Friday.
The win sees the Chiefs snap a three-game losing streak against the Reds in Hamilton to move from the bottom of the Kiwi conference log, above the Blues into fourth position.
As for the Reds, they remain rooted in fourth spot in the Australian conference despite playing a game more than the Brumbies, Rebels and Waratahs.
It was by no means a great game, but the Chiefs will be happy with the defensive effort they put in while under sustained pressure from the Reds.
Meanwhile, the performance of Sam Cane will no doubt have pleased the All Blacks selectors, and in particular coach Steve Hansen. In his first start since suffering a career-threatening neck fracture against the Springboks in October last year, Cane ran four metres, made four carries, completed six passes, made one offload, beat one defender, made nine tackles and pulled off a lineout steal during his 49-minute shift.
In a lively start to the game, the TMO had ruled out two tries – one either way – before the Chiefs seized control with two tries, by No Pita Sowakula and Atu Moli, against the run of play to take a handy 12-6 lead.
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyNZ) May 24, 2019
At that point, the Reds would have been wondering how they were trailing. In two contrasting efforts, the Reds dominated possession and built multiple phases multiple times, but failed to finish off their chances. The Chiefs, on the other hand, were deprived of sustained spells of possession, but once they did get the ball, their execution was spot on.
And it was that clinical streak that saw the hosts finish the half strongly with a third try just before the break for a 19-6 lead.
The second half was a closely fought affair, with the Reds applying all the pressure, while the Chiefs were forced to defend tirelessly. After tighthead prop Taniela Tupou eventually surged over for the Reds’ first try and Bryce Hegarty had knocked over the conversion, the game was nicely poised heading into the last 15 minutes.
The Reds forced a number of penalties late in the game and set a lineout every time, but in the end a monumental defensive effort, which resulted in a grand total of 241 tackles, saw the Chiefs come away with a stirring victory.
Chiefs – Tries: Pita Gus Sowakula, Atu Moli, Etene Nanai-Seturo. Conversions: Marty McKenzie (2).
Reds – Try: Taniela Tupou. Conversion: Bryce Hegarty. Penalties: Hegarty (2).
Chiefs – 15 Solomon Alaimalo, 14 Shaun Stevenson, 13 Tumua Manu, 12 Alex Nankivell, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Marty McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber (c), 8 Pita Gus Sowakula, 7 Lachlan Boshier, 6 Sam Cane, 5 Tyler Ardron, 4 Jesse Parete, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Atu Moli.
Subs: 16 Samisoni Taukeiaho, 17 Aidan Ross, 18 Sosefo Kautai, 19 Mitchell Jacobson, 20 Mitchell Karpik, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Jack Debreczeni, 23 Sean Wainui.
Reds – 15 Matt McGahan, 14 Jock Campbell, 13 Seb Wileman, 12 Duncan Paia’aua, 11 Sefa Naivalu, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Angus Scott-Young, 7 Liam Wright, 6 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 5 Angus Blyth, 4 Izack Rodda (c), 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Alex Mafi, 1 Harry Hoopert.
Subs: 16 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 17 Feao Fotuaika, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Scott Higginbotham, 20 Caleb Timu, 21 Moses Sorovi, 22 Teti Tela, 23 Liam MacNamara.