Seta Tamanivalu and Damian McKenzie scored a brace of tries as the Chiefs secured a resounding 50-5 victory over the Reds in Brisbane on Friday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
This was the exact result the Chiefs were looking for: a comfortable bonus-point victory that enables them to remain in a position of ascendancy at the top of the New Zealand conference.
The Hamilton-based side has now moved six points ahead of the Crusaders, who face the Rebels in Christchurch on Saturday. The seven-time champs would be expected to comfortably win that clash, though, and so the New Zealand conference winner is likely to be decided next weekend.
The Chiefs will take on the defending champion Highlanders, while the Saders will host last year’s runners-up, the Hurricanes, in what will be two enthralling New Zealand derbies.
There’s no doubt that the Chiefs will head into their final conference fixture with plenty of momentum on their side after picking up an impressive win over the Saders last weekend before thrashing the Reds on Friday.
Coming into the clash, the Chiefs had tallied 58 tries so far this season, and by half-time in Brisbane they’d added five more to that impressive haul.
Tamanivalu and Atu Moli both scored in the opening 15 minutes after two periods of beautiful interplay that have been such a feature of the Chiefs’ game this season.
However, discipline did let the Chiefs down early on, with the visitors conceding five penalties in the opening quarter. It enabled the Reds to finally reap some reward when winger Chris Kuridrani barged over in the 21st minute.
It briefly brought the Reds back into the contest after a period where they enjoyed the better of possession, but in a matter of moments, the complexion of the clash was turned on its head.
With the Kiwi side again threatening on attack, Reds scrumhalf Nick Frisby was sent to the sin bin when he kicked the ball out of the hand of Chiefs flanker Lachlan Boshier as he looked to ground it over the tryline.
It resulted in a penalty try and a yellow card, while just moments later Reds fullback Jack Tuttle joined Frisby in the sin bin after taking out a player in the air.
As if it wasn’t tough enough for the Reds, they were forced to play the final 10 minutes of the half with 13 men, and during that time Sam Cane and Tamanivalu went over to score two more tries for the Chiefs.
Leading 33-5 at half-time, the game was as good as won for the Chiefs, and rather unsurprisingly the second stanza degenerated into a bit of a scrappy affair as both sides began to play it fast and loose.
McKenzie extended the Chiefs' advantage with a well-worked try in the 55th minute, while hooker Nathan Harris piled on the punishment when he went over for the Chiefs' seventh try with just over 10 minutes remaining.
Just for good measure, McKenzie went over for one more try just before full-time as the Chiefs secured their biggest ever margin of victory in Super Rugby.
Reds – Try: Chris Kuridrani.
Chiefs – Tries: Seta Tamanivalu (2), Atu Moli, penalty try, Sam Cane, Damian McKenzie (2), Nathan Harris. Conversions: Damian McKenzie (5).
Reds – 15 Jack Tuttle, 14 Chris Kuridrani, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Henry Taefu, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Duncan Paia’aua, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Curtis Browning, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Cadeyrn Neville, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Andrew Ready, 1 James Slipper (c).
Subs: 16 Matt Mafi, 17 Sef Fa'agase, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Lukhan Tui, 20 Leroy Houston, 21 James Tuttle, 22 Anthony Fainga'a, 23 Campbell Magnay.
Chiefs – 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Seta Tamanivalu, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Sam Cane (c), 7 Lachlan Boshier, 6 Tom Sanders, 5 Taleni Seu, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Atu Moli, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Kane Hames.
Subs: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Mitchell Brown, 20 Liam Messam, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Andrew Horrell, 23 Sam McNicol.
Photo: Chris Hyde/Getty Images