Chiefs outlast Reds to move into finals contention



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The late charging Chiefs moved into the Super 14 top four when they outlasted the Reds 32-20 in a relentless running encounter here Saturday.

The Chiefs took maximum points with the bonus fourth try coming late in the match to seal their fifth consecutive win.

Backing up from their courageous performance last week when they ended the Crusaders unbeaten run, the Chiefs raced to a 24-3 lead at halftime.

But the Reds, who had threatened through the first half, turned on the heat in the second when they piled on 17-unanswered points, narrowing the gap to 20-24 before the Chiefs regained control in the closing stages.

“We defended well in the first half and we scored points when we needed to in the second,” said Chiefs skipper Mils Muliaina who cautioned that his side could not yet count on making the play-offs.

“Now we have the big leg to come,” he said as the Chiefs face a difficult three games away against the Western Force, the Lions and the Sharks.

Central to the victory was Stephen Donald, who has put behind him a mediocre start to the season to become the form flyhalf in New Zealand as the Chiefs gather steam.

He finished the match with a personal tally of 17 points from a try, three conversions and two penalties.

Donald had the first points on the board in the fifth minute when he fielded his own deft chip kick to score under the posts.

Minutes later he converted a follow up try by Lelia Masaga from wide out to have the Chiefs up 14-0 inside 10 minutes.

The Reds came back from the opening blitz, picking up the pace of the game but despite finding gaping holes around the Chiefs’ ruck their first half scoring was restricted to a Berrick Barnes drop goal.

The Chiefs, meanwhile, after withstanding 10 minutes of repeated attacks on their line, found their way back on the right side of halfway and immediately had more points with a Donald penalty.

Just before the break they went further ahead when Donald put through a grubber kick for the fast following Masaga to score his second try of the match and seventh of the season.

Donald’s conversion from wide out gave the Chiefs a 24-3 lead at the turn.

Reds centre Morgan Turinui also scored two tries, starting just after the resumption of play when he stepped around Muliaina to score wide out when his side had only 14 men with Clinton Schifofske in the sin bin.

Barnes’ conversion attempt was unsuccessful but the Reds had at least found the line and five minutes later had their second try when replacement winger Digby Ioane score wide out.

Within three minutes Turinui had scored again, ending a long-range movement in which most of the Reds handled the ball.

The valiant charge had the Reds within four points of the Chiefs before Donald kicked his second penalty.

But it took until the 70th minute before the homeside could feel victory within their grasp when Sione Lauaki intercepted a pass and raced 60 metres to score in Schifcofske’s tackle.

Sapa-AFP –

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