Chiefs 46 Reds 17

Charlie Ngatai is back and, judging by their drubbing of the Reds, so are the Chiefs.

Some would argue they never went away, given tonight's victory was their ninth in 10 games this season, but the performance in New Plymouth was far more reflective of the Chiefs at their best.

Boosted by watching Ngatai pull on a Chiefs jersey for the first time in a year, Dave Rennie's side rediscovered their attacking touch and ran in six tries during the bonus-point win, banishing the memory of last week's blunt effort against the Sunwolves.

Ngatai made an immediate impression and his return was capped with a try just before halftime, one understandably celebrated with extra vigour by teammates. And the Chiefs' joy at the addition of their previously stricken second five was about much more than mere sentimental reasons.


Appropriately enough, Ngatai's try was set up by his own bruising burst up the middle moments earlier, steamrolling over Quade Cooper to elicit extra satisfaction among his home crowd. It was a sequence that represented just what the midfielder would add to the Chiefs at the business end of the competition - and just what the Chiefs had been lacking in recent weeks.

It wasn't as if Ngatai ran rampant against the Reds defence but he did offer an able link between the graft of the pack and the flair of the outside backs, taking turns to straighten the attack or quickly shift it through the hands. And as his influence increased, so did the Chiefs' ascendancy.

Initially hampered by poor discipline and untimely errors, the hosts steadily gained control over an opponent who had hit the front early. Sam Cane and Brodie Retallick were setting the tone with crunching carries while Tawera Kerr-Barlow was ensuring his side attacked at tempo, all aspects - or players - missing against the Sunwolves.

As a result, the Reds gradually became stretched and began sliding off tackles, not helped when George Smith was sin-binned late in the first half. And, after the Chiefs unleashed match-winning three-try blitz early in the second spell, the visitors' struggles were vividly reflected on the scoreboard.

The first of that spree came straight from the kick-off, with Retallick leaping well and laying the platform for locking partner Dominic Bird to cross. Then came a double that could have been even more popular than Ngatai's comeback.

Stephen Donald was only called into the starting lineup on Friday, after Aaron Cruden fell ill, but the veteran celebrated his promotion with two tries in eight minutes to blow open the game.

Suddenly, all appeared right again in the Chiefs' world: the most miserly defence in the competition continued to shut down the Reds, the superb James Lowe's booming left boot was establishing prime field position and the set piece was creating clean ball to earn redemption after last week's woes.

All that was left was for Lowe to clinch the bonus point and, after their bye, left the Chiefs to look ahead eagerly to a New Zealand conference showdown against the Crusaders in Fiji.


Chiefs 46 (K. Hames, C. Ngatai, D. Bird, S. Donald 2, J. Lowe tries; D. McKenzie 5 cons, 2 pens)
Reds 17 (S. Moore, E. Nabuli, C. Magnay tries; Q. Cooper con)
Halftime: 20-12