Clinical Chiefs end Queensland Reds’ Super Rugby season

Darren Walton |

The Chiefs have ended the Reds’ season with an emphatic 22-point quarter-final win.
The Chiefs have ended the Reds’ season with an emphatic 22-point quarter-final win.

The Queensland Reds are eyeing future spoils after their season of high hopes and promise ended in disappointment with a 43-21 submission to the Chiefs in the opening Super Rugby Pacific quarter-final in Hamilton.

The ruthless and clinical Chiefs ran in four unanswered first-half tries to lead 31-0 at the break and set up the demolition job on the Reds at FMG Stadium Waikato.

With three victories over New Zealand opposition for the first time since 2013, including a watershed win over the defending champion Crusaders in Christchurch and a round-three defeat of the Chiefs in Brisbane, the Reds truly believed they were title contenders in 2024.

But their dreams were shattered inside 15 minutes on Friday night when the Chiefs raced to a 21-0 lead through an early try-scoring double to hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho and one to winger Emoni Narawa.

Ferocious at the breakdown, the Chiefs dominated physically.

But it was a brilliant chip from master playmaker Damian McKenzie and regather and kick-on from fullback Shaun Stevenson that set up the Chiefs’ fourth try – finished by Etene Nanai-Seturo – and match-winning halftime lead. 

Shaun Stevenson.
Shaun Stevenson was in the thick of the action as the Chiefs crushed the Reds. (Aaron Gillions/AAP PHOTOS)

Queensland briefly threatened a fightback with the first try of the second half through co-captain and Wallabies No.9 Tate McDermott.

But normal service resumed as All Blacks ace Anton Lienert-Brown crossed for the Chiefs’ fifth try in the 55th minute to extend the hosts’ insurmountable lead to 38-7.

McDermott grabbed a second for the Reds, but it was merely a consolation as Queensland captain Liam Wright lamented an opportunity lost. 

“There’s a lot to like,” Wright said.

“We wanted to do it all this year, obviously. That’s what every team wants to do.

“We thought we had the chances and we just couldn’t take them there in this game.

“But we’ve come up with some really good guys, we’ve built nice combinations with new coaches and we’re looking forward to what this group can keep producing.

“We’ve just got to keep working harder so we’re better in these moments.

“We’re showing parts of it. We’re building towards a game that we can be competitive and can beat good teams like this, like the Chiefs.

“So that’s where we’re trying to head to. Tonight, it was probably the breakdown that let us down a bit.”

Tate McDermott.
Tate McDermott hit the scoreboard for the Reds, but the Chiefs still won their quarter-final. (Aaron Gillions/AAP PHOTOS)

Queensland’s tails-between-the-legs exit from the competition leaves the ACT Brumbies as Australia’s best chance of breaking the Kiwis’ decade-long trans-Tasman stranglehold on the Super Rugby title.

But as well as needing to take out the Highlanders in Canberra on Saturday, the Brumbies are now relying on the soon-to-be-extinct Melbourne Rebels upsetting the table-topping Hurricanes to secure a home semi-final.

Otherwise the Brumbies will be heading to New Zealand needing to become the first Australian team ever to win a finals match across the Tasman to remain in the title hunt.

Whoever and wherever they play, the Chiefs are full of confidence they can win the competition for the first time since 2012 after falling in last year’s semi-finals.

“I’ve got a lot of belief,” said captain Luke Jacobson.

“We’re priming at the right time. We’re starting to peak.

“So you don’t need to do it during the season. It matters at the final, so that’s all we’re aiming for.”