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Reds shatter their 21-game, 10-year New Zealand losing streak

By AAP
(Photo by Andy Jackson/Getty Images)

The Queensland Reds have broken their New Zealand hoodoo and ended the Chiefs’ unbeaten season with a stunning Super Rugby Pacific upset in New Plymouth. New-found composure and relentless defence was behind the Reds’ 25-22 win, with Tom Lynagh’s 77th-minute penalty ending a 21-game, 10-year losing streak on New Zealand soil.

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The Chiefs still had a chance to steal a victory, putting together a pulsating 27 phases after the siren and twice holding a penalty advantage. But Tyrone Thompson was held up over the line by a pack of desperate Reds, the referee’s full-time whistle killing that advantage and sealing a famous first win for Brad Thorn in New Zealand since he took over as Queensland coach in 2018.

It came against the clear ladder-leaders no less, who have averaged 37 points per game in 10 straight wins to begin the season. It was also the Reds’ first win against New Zealand opposition in their last 11 starts.

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Victory erased a poor loss to the NSW Waratahs last week and shot the Reds back to sixth, two wins clear of the Melbourne Rebels in ninth in what is Thorn’s final season in charge. “Unbelievable,” co-captain Tate McDermott said.

“It gives us new life. We have always just lacked the polish. Discipline has been an achilles heel and tonight we put it away and defended like a pack of dogs.”

Jock Campbell excelled at full-back with Jordan Petaia (wrist) out, while James O’Connor was back to his old self at No12. Half-back McDermott and flanker Fraser McReight were everywhere in inspiring World Cup auditions. Hooker Matt Faessler was also key, coming on in a full swap of the Reds’ front row with two minutes to play in the first half.

That proved a turning point, the Reds boldly kicking for touch instead of taking three points and scoring through McDermott to go to the sheds 12-12 after dominating the half. Campbell scored on the restart after more sustained pressure, three missed conversions the only issue after the Reds’ corrected their lineout wobbles of the opening period.

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The Chiefs pressed for a response but found no way through the Reds’ defence, star No.10 Damian McKenzie eventually kicking out on the full. A McReight knock-on provided a chance though, Samipeni Finau eventually scoring after countless close-range charges at the line.

That levelled the scores at 22-22 with seven minutes to play, before Liam Wright bravely slid into traffic and somehow won possession when the Reds’ restart hit the deck among a pack of Chiefs. Lynagh obliged with a penalty to put them ahead and then, after a scrum on halfway when play was paused to treat a Finau injury, Queensland held on for dear life to clinch the win.

“I couldn’t single out any of our guys that played poorly, the Reds just played better,” Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan said. “They looked a desperate side, more desperate than us. Games like tonight create a bit of belief. It’ll give them that little bit of momentum, see if they can get a little higher (up the ladder).”

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