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Powerful Reds second half sinks Chiefs

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Sportal.co.nz     13 May 2012     Getty Images

Three first-half tries in eight minutes had the Chiefs in the lead at the interval, but a hat-trick from the Reds in the first 10 minutes of the second half put the hosts into a nervous lead that ended in a 42-27 victory.

In what was by far the most entertaining rugby spectacle played at Suncorp this year - in front of a season-high 36,479 fans - the Reds' return to fast-flowing rugby was enough to keep the massive Chiefs unit on the hop and secure their first attacking bonus point of the season.

In a touch of controversy sure to inflame plenty across the Tasman, the Reds were spared a yellow card and a one-man disadvantage late in the game, after second five-eighths Sonny Bill Williams was hit with a lifting tackle, but no officials were able to sight the number of the offender, fullback Luke Morahan.

The controversy was compounded when Morahan came through with a brilliant try-saving tackle at the corner post just moments after the indiscretion.

The win takes the Reds to ninth overall on the Super Rugby ladder, while the Chiefs stay top of the New Zealand conference.

Teenage openside flanker Liam Gill was immense for the home side, pilfering time and again and leading a determined effort from the defending champions to provide quick ball for the back line.

Dead-eye second five-eighths Mike Harris was again instrumental with the boot for the Reds, nailing seven from eight in a combination of conversions, penalties and a dropped goal.

The Reds hadn't scored more than two tries in any of their Suncorp Stadium matches in 2012, but there were promising signs when it took them less than four minutes to get on the board, with Harris intercepting, drawing three in a run to the line and offloading for wing Dom Shipperley to score in the corner.

Williams - brilliant in a losing side - started the game with off-loads, pilfers and trade-mark big hits, before sparking the visitors with their first try in the 30th minute, running over untouched as the hosts scrambled in disarray following a left-side breakaway.

The ladder-leading Chiefs were spurred by their first and clicked into top gear as the Reds' concentration waned, they were able to pile on another two tries, turning a three-point deficit into a 14-point lead in the blink of an eye.

The Reds looked dead and buried in the shadows of half-time, but a courageous decision to kick for touch rather than aim for a penalty with 30 seconds remaining yielded a vital try after the siren, narrowing the margin to 22-15.

The Reds drew level immediately after half-time, putting on 15 pick-and-drive phases for No.8 Higginbotham to crash over.

Halfback Will Genia made it two tries in the first five minutes of the second half to reclaim the lead, showing trademark skill to ghost 30 metres from the back of the scrum, splitting defenders before pinning back the ears and beating wing Lelia Masaga to the left-hand quarter.

Having secured their first four-point bonus try of the season, the hosts took just moments to add their fifth, this time through interchange hooker Saia Faingaa, who was the man to ground the ball after a big Queensland push after a close-range lineout win.

But the New Zealand title contenders had no intentions of laying down, and a quick spread for wing Asaeli Tokoirotuma to score in the corner had the margin back within two tries with 20 minutes to play.

Tension stayed high to the end, but a try-saving tackle from Morahan and a pair of penalties to Harris was enough to ensure a sensational win.

Scorers:

Reds 42 (Scott Higginbotham, Will Genia, Ben Lucas, Dom Shipperley, Saia Faingaa tries; Mike Harris 4 con, 2 pen, dropped goal) Chiefs 27 (Sona Taumalolo, Liam Messam, Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Sonny Bill Williams tries; Aaron Cruden 2 con, pen). HT: 15-22