Both of these teams come into this game with their fair share of injuries and resting national representatives. As Reg noted in the preview, on the face of it, before a ball was even kicked, these changes were likely to have a more significant on the Reds than it would on the Chiefs. Going into the game both teams have 23 points on the Super Rugby ladder, with the Chiefs languishing at the bottom of the New Zealand conference and the Reds only above the Sunwolves on the Australian table.
When people start talking “mathematical” chances of making finals, you can be very sure that the teams are playing more for pride than finals accolades.
The best description for the first half came from Rikki Swannell (the SkySports commentator), “loose and untidy”. And boy wasn’t she right. I would have liked to add fast, but let’s go with intermittent speed.
Despite having 54% of the possession in the first half and getting the ball across the try line twice, the Reds could only manage two penalties on the scoreboard. It was good to see them put together some long passages of play. The first disallowed try came at the end of 19 phases and another string of 15 phases later in the half shows that the young team is learning that patience is a valuable skill. However, leading the possession stat counts for nought if you can’t convert it to points.
The Chiefs, like all good Kiwi teams, took their chances and went into the break on 19 points. Luck was smiling on them with two of their three tries from this one-eyed Reds supporters point of view, when a knock-on was missed in the lead up to Atu Moli’s try and a massive forward pass went uncalled to put Etene Nanai-Seturo over. But, as the saying goes, the harder you work the luckier you get.
The second half was more the same with the teams settling back into the arm wrestle. Throughout the game, there were at least six passages of play where the Reds held the ball for more than 15 phases in attack. I am not sure how many tackles the Chiefs made in the game, but boy it must have been plenty!
Nine minutes into the second half there was an extended break as Harry Hoopert was stretchered from the field following a heavy collision. This seemed to galvanise the Reds, and after 19 phases bashing at the Chiefs line, Tanelia Toupu bulldozed his way over and Bryce Hegarty converted to bring the Reds score to 13.
The remaining 20 minutes of the game was comprised of the Reds putting together multiple phases in attack only to be denied by a timely Chiefs turn-over. A kick by the Chiefs to exit their own in goal area, and the Reds stringing together the phases again to batter away at the try line. The game really had to end as it did with the Reds being held up over the line when a converted try would have given them the win. The Chief’s player that prevented the try? One Jack Debreczeni.
In the end, the Chiefs won by six points, 19 points to 13. A much closer margin then I think any of us expected.
Match Turning Point
The half time break seemed to be a defining point for the Reds. Either that or the injury to Hoopert. In the second half, the young team seem to decide that they were going to do all that they could to snatch a win. And they damn near did. Three tries to the Chiefs in the first half nearly wasn’t enough.
I always find this difficult in games between Aussie teams and the internationals. Am I meant to consider all players or just the Aussies? The Chiefs played well as a team. Brad Webber stood out like he regularly does. And even from an Aussie’s point of view, it is nice to see Sam Cane back on the park.
Quite a few in the Reds stood up. Duncan Paia’aua took his chance and played well as Kerevi’s replacement. Seb Wileman did not much wrong in his starting debut. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and Izack Rodda seemed to be in everything and smashing all that stood in their way. Tanelia Toupu showed his full range of skills with tackles, runs, off-loads and a spot of negotiation. However, my GAGR MoTM goes to Tate McDermott who had a sparkling game at scrum-half.
If Tate is not in the squad….. [insert threat here]. As a young bloke, he has grown into his role this year and this game showed that he has all the skills you want, well I want in a scrum-half. He could learn a lot from being in and around Sanchez.
Reds – 13
Conv: Hegarty (1/1)
Penalties: Hegarty (2/2)
Chiefs – 19
Tries: Sowakula; Moli; Nanai-Seturo
Conv: MacKenzie (2/3)
Two weeks in a row when AFG was involved that there were no cards…