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'We opened a door for them': Where the Chiefs fell short against the fast-firing Reds

By Tom Raine
Clayton McMillan and Anton Lienert-Brown. (Photos by Jeremy Ward/Photosport)

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Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan believed that the Reds were undeniably deserving of praise as the Queensland outfit “cashed in their opportunities” and rendered McMillan’s side the first New Zealand team to lose in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman this year.

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Townsville was the venue for the exciting 40-34 contest as the Chiefs at one stage were reduced to thirteen courtesy of two cards in quick succession – first a yellow for Chase Tiatia, followed shortly after by a red for the talismanic Damian McKenzie after a high shot on Tate McDermott.

Yet the Chiefs proved a constant threat right up until the death, scoring three tries in the last ten minutes and securing a losing bonus point for their efforts. McMillan was able to take solace from the gutsy efforts of his side and was quick to praise their grit and determination.

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“We showed a lot of character to stick in the fight and make it close at the end,” said McMillan. “But we’ll look back at our inaccuracies and our ill discipline in the first half… you just can’t be that poor against quality sides and we got punished for it. So we’ll suck it up.”

Certainly in the build up to the game much was made of the fact that no Australian side had as yet seen success against their Kiwi counterparts, but the Reds unhindered by the talk, brought tempo and excitement in the early stages, playing with pace and capitalising efficiently on their numerical advantage to lead 40-8 on the 60 minute mark.

Of course the Queensland side heading into Super Rugby Trans-Tasman were highly tipped to fly the flag for the Australian franchises, winning Super Rugby AU in 2021 with only one loss in the regular season and right from the off the quality alluded to by McMillan post-match was clearly on display as the Reds backline had a field day.

“You’ve got to give credit to the Reds, they would have been disappointed with how things went last week against the Crusaders. We always expected a response and unfortunately for us we opened the door for them to do that…the margins are fine…you don’t have to be too far off your game to get punished and we learned our lesson today.”

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Speaking of his own team’s efforts, McMillan identified shakiness in the usually reliable Chiefs scrum (statistically the best out of the New Zealand sides in Super Rugby Aotearoa this year) as being a cause of a lack of control on the game.

“Our scrum was a little bit wobbly early, its been a strength of ours so we’ll have to go away and have a look at that,” McMillan said. “We didn’t paint very positive pictures for the referee early in that sort of regard so that doesn’t help and also I just thought we didn’t hold onto the ball long enough. When we did I thought we had the Reds under some real pressure, at sixes and sevens at times, but we just didn’t do that often enough to create pressure to score points, so those are things that we just need to tidy up.”

The Chiefs may also feel that they benefitted from the red-card rule introduced last year, allowing them to replace McKenzie after 20 minutes and returning a level of structure back to the side in the second half that almost resulted in the miraculous.

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On McKenzie’s red card, McMillan was candid but backed a player that has been so crucial to his side’s turnaround in 2021.

“You just put yourself at risk any time you go anywhere close to the head, so you just need to be better again. I don’t want to hang Damian [McKenzie] out to dry because he’s pretty brave for a young fella and the amount of times he’s actually won us games off the back of his boot but also his defence, more than his attack. He got it a little bit wrong there and again paid the price.”

The Chiefs will look to bounce back for next week as they welcome a travelling Rebels side.

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'We opened a door for them': Where the Chiefs fell short against the fast-firing Reds

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