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Chiefs start hot and beat Reds 43-21 in first Super Rugby quarterfinal

Tupou Vaa'i of the Chiefs wins a lineout during the Super Rugby Pacific quarterfinal match between the Waikato Chiefs and the Queensland Reds at FMG Stadium in Hamilton, New Zealand, Friday, June 7, 2024. (Aaron Gillions/Photosport/AAP Image via AP)

HAMILTON, New Zealand (AP) — The Hamilton-based Chiefs rocked the Queensland Reds with a four-try first half and went on to win 43-21 in the first quarterfinal in Super Rugby Pacific on Friday.

The Chiefs scored at more than a point a minute until the 23rd minute when they led 28-0 and topped off the first half with a Damian McKenzie penalty to lead 31-0 at the break.

Hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho touched down twice during that early period and, with his third conversion McKenzie became the first player to reach 150 points for the season.

The Chiefs were polished on attack, ferocious in defense throughout the first half, allowing the Reds few attacking chances. They were especially effective at the breakdown where they regularly won turnovers through forceful counter-rucking.

The Reds started the second half strongly with two tries to scrumhalf Tate McDermott, the first when the visitors held the ball for 12 phases from the restart. But the Reds often were stilted in their attack, hitting the Chiefs’ defensive line from first or second receiver.

The Chiefs still were able to extend their lead with a try between McDermott’s tries and scored again through replacement hooker Bradley Slater in the 63rd to put the game firmly out of reach for the Reds.

“I’m really happy. We’ve earned another Monday,” Taukei’aho said. “That first half we came out firing and we managed to hold them to zero.

“There’s a few things to tidy up from the second half but we’re really happy with the performance tonight.”

Taukei’aho scored the first try in the sixth minute after the Chiefs held the ball constantly from the kickoff. The Chiefs kicked to the corner from a penalty, and after several phases from the lineout Taukei’aho showed his strength and drove through the Reds’ line.

Winger Emoni Narawa scored his 10th try of the season in the 10th minute after a midfield break by Rameka Poihipi. The ball went wide to Wallace Sititi who flung it back infield to Narawa.

Taukei’aho scored again in the 16th and winger Etene Nanai-Seturo in the 23rd after neat kicks by McKenzie and fullback Shaun Stephenson.

McDermott’s first try followed good phase play by the Reds after which winger Mac Grealy went close to scoring. McDermott scored his second from a line break by Fraser McReight.

Anton Lienert-Brown scored for the Chiefs in that period off an excellent hold and pass from McKenzie which put him into a gap near the line. Slater was driven from a lineout for the Chiefs’ final try and Lawson Creighton scored the last try for the Reds.

“The Chiefs came out really strong and they got away from us a bit,” Reds captain Liam Wright said. “There’s a lot of pride in wearing this jersey for us so we fought back a bit at the end but too little, too late.”

A closer match was expected between the Chiefs, who finished the regular season in fourth place, and the Reds who finished fifth. The Reds beat the Chiefs during the regular season.

In other quarterfinals on Saturday, the Wellington-based Hurricanes will play the Melbourne Rebels, the Auckland-based Blues will play the Fijian Drua, and the ACT Brumbies will play the Dunedin-based Highlanders.

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AP rugby: https://apnews.com/hub/rugby