Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
The St.George Queensland Reds have run rampant in the afternoon sun to score their first four-try bonus point of the season in a 42-27 victory over the top of the table Chiefs at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday.
In front of a Reds season high crowd of 36, 479 on Mother’s Day, the Reds scored five tries to four to end the Chiefs nine game win streak while giving their chances of qualifying for back-to-back FxPro Super Rugby finals an almighty boost.
Trailing 22-15 at halftime, after the competition pacesetting Chiefs had scored three tries in ten minutes, the Reds scored first after the break to level scores at 22-all through Scott Higginbotham, before scoring further tries through Will Genia and Saia Faingaa in the second half to seal the inspired win.
The second half allowed the Reds to continue their ongoing success at Suncorp Stadium although it was a try to flyhalf Ben Lucas just before halftime that scrumhalf Will Genia pinpointed as the game’s biggest moment.
Facing a 22-8 deficit just before the break, skipper James Horwill turned down two opportunities for kickable penalties, instead electing for the corner and the move paid off when Ben Lucas broke one tackle to dive over out wide.
“The turning point for us was that try just before halftime,” Genia said.
“All week we talked about pressuring them in the attacking zone. We just held on to the ball and after tucking them in scored a try out wide. From there we got the three quick tries after half time and that put us in a good position for the rest of the game.
“We just need to take it one game at a time from here on in. The feeling around the group is back to where we want it to be. The attitude and quality of our training is really good.”
Reds coach Ewen McKenzie said the Reds’ attitude in knocking off the competition leaders and the strategy applied were major positives for the team as they now look to continue narrowing the gap between themselves and the current Australian Conference leading Brumbies.
“We had some thoughts about how to play them and some of those came to fruition,” McKenzie said.
“You’ll have periods of time where you’ll sit there and defend and they’re a slippery team to play against. You can talk to the tight forwards, there was plenty of running in that game but we did enough over the 80 minutes and that’s important.
“It’s the variety in the game which is getting us there. If you’re going to run all the time you are running into brick walls. It is a matter of having some variety to keep the defensive line raged. “That’s box kicking, pick and drive, and shifting the ball. It’s a mixture of all that. The good teams are doing all that.”
After the Reds had missed an uncharacteristic number of tackles in the first half, fullback Luke Morahan and flanker Liam Gill in particular gave inspired displays of defence in the second 40 as the Chiefs threw wave after wave of attack at the Reds.
Gill added another man-of-the-match performance to his resume with the 19-year old now the competition’s leading pilferer, his combination with fellow flanker Beau Robinson giving the Queenslanders a decided edge at the breakdown.
The Reds were the first to score when Mike Harris snapped up a misdirected pass from Liam Messam to break free. With three defenders giving chase, Harris fought off one and managed an offload to winger Dom Shipperley, who dived over for his sixth try of the season.
The Chiefs then showed last year’s champions why they’re on top of the table in 2012, scoring three tries in ten minutes. Star centre Sonny Bill Williams was first to pierce the Reds defence and was followed shortly after by Liam Messam and prolific try-scoring prop Sona Taumalolo.
The Reds carried their momentum into the second half and drew level with the Chiefs when Higginbotham dived over in the 42nd minute.
Will Genia brought back memories of his Super Rugby final winning try when he cut through the Chiefs midfield defence, scooting 60 metres to touch down in the corner and ignite the Reds run home.
Saia Faingaa finished off a tough period of play from the forwards as he took the lead out to 34-22, before a drop goal from Mike Harris in the 64th minute and a further penalty in the 76th took his night’s tally with the boot out to 17 points.
The Chiefs continued to pressure the Reds in the concluding stages of the match although their defence held strong courtesy of some strong scrambling defence and three exceptional try-saving tackles by fullback Luke Morahan.
The Reds now turn their attention to next week’s home game at Suncorp Stadium against the Lions.
St.George Queensland Reds 42 (Dom Shipperley, Ben Lucas, Scott Higginbotham, Will Genia, Saia Faingaa tries; Mike Harris 4 cons, 2 pens, dg) def Chiefs 27 (Sonny Bill Williams, Sona Taumalolo, Liam Messam, Aseli Tikoirotuma tries; Aaron Cruden 2 cons, pen)