Rugby: Reds wreak havoc on Chiefs' defensive line

By Dylan Cleaver

Will Genia of the Reds. Photo / Getty Images.
Will Genia of the Reds. Photo / Getty Images.

The Chiefs' winning streak ends at nine, and so does their reputation as a defensive juggernaut, after the Reds made merry in Brisbane last night.

Add in a potentially serious injury to centre Richard Kahui - he appeared to dislocate his shoulder and scans will determine whether he will play any further part in the campaign - and it made a grim night at the office for the Chiefs who ceded their position atop the table to the Bulls.

It all looked so different on the stroke of halftime, when the Chiefs streaked away to a 14-point lead, but the signs of fragility evident in Pukekohe the week before loomed even larger as the defending champions poured on an astonishing four-try burst either side of the break.

"We got out-muscled and beaten by a better side on the day," coach Dave Rennie said. "We had a period where we gave up four tries which was really telling. They did some good work on the ball and Will Genia made a massive contribution."

After the Reds' outburst, the Chiefs were chasing the game and despite numerous half-breaks, they were unable to link as effectively as they had early in the match.

Looking on the bright side, they picked up a bonus point and, if anything, somehow have an even stronger grip on the New Zealand conference after the Highlanders and, shockingly, Crusaders fell over.

The Chiefs have a bye and four guaranteed points with which to console themselves over the next fortnight before they meet the Bulls in Hamilton.

After a week off, they will be back to work.

"The areas we'll look at are [defence] around the fringes and lineout drives," said captain Craig Clarke.

Starting at breakneck pace, the Chiefs had an ideal launching pad from turnover ball, the only problem being that Mike Harris was the only man who read Liam Messam's cute pop-pass. He did not quite have the pace to finish the job, Dom Shipperley instead scoring the first try.

It set the theme for a first half that was at times breathtaking, at other times haphazard. It was never anything less than edge-of-the-seat stuff.

Aaron Cruden and Sonny Bill Williams were causing all sorts of rethinks in the Reds' defensive line, aided by Brendon Leonard's snappiest game since returning from injury.

Cruden ghosted right to put Williams in for the Chiefs' opening try. Minutes later Messam was on hand to support Lelia Masaga's break down the right flank.

Messam's score and the one that soon followed it from Sona Taumalolo would be candidates for try of the year.

Taumalolo's inevitable dash for the third try came after Jackson Willison, on for the wounded Kahui, had gone close.

Things then went inexplicably pear-shaped in the Chiefs. In an 11-minute horror stretch the Reds poured on 28 points.

Shoddy restart work cost the visitors soft tries either side of halftime.

Genia scooted between Alex Bradley and Tanerau Latimer then ran half the pitch virtually untouched for a try - a 2011 Super 15 final flashback.

The Chiefs' nemesis from a week ago, lineout drive defence, struck again when Saia Faingaa crashed over.

The visitors hadn't faced anything remotely like it this season. Last week's opposed training run against the Lions was the first time they'd conceded three tries in a match, let alone four in little more than 10 minutes.

Forced to chase the game, the Chiefs carved out chances, most involving Williams, but lacked the cohesion and composure to finish them off.

Asaeli Tikoirotuma ensured they left Brisbane with a point, but right now that won't feel like an awful lot of consolation.

Reds: Dom Shipperley, Ben Lucas, Scott Higginbotham, Will Genia, Saia Faingaa tries; Mike Harris 2 pen dg 4 con)

Chiefs: Sonny Bill Williams, Liam Messam, Sona Taumalolo, Asaeli Tikoirotuma tries; Aaron Cruden pen 2 con. Halftime: 15-22

- NZ Herald

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