Bumbling Reds crash to another humbling defeat
BLUNDERS from the Reds strangled them on Kiwi soil again on Saturday night as if Paul Kelly had re-worked his famous song into their 2017 epitaph .. "From Little Things Big Stuff-ups Grow".
The Chiefs were a class above during their 46-17 victory on a clear, crisp night in New Plymouth but gratefully accepted all the assistance they were handed.
It wasn't just Reds' Duncan Paia'aua, Quade Cooper and others falling off tackles but inconsistency and silly errors which tripped the Queenslanders.
"The desire to win the little moments in games is the difference between a good side and an average one," Reds coach Nick Stiles said.
"You can never switch off, we did on certain skills and the Kiwis hurt you big-time, as they have all the Australian teams this season.
"It's just not good enough to say you competed for 40 minutes."
The Reds led 12-7 after a strong first 25 minutes but the sin-binning of key flanker George Smith at that point for a no-arms tackle left them vulnerable.
What exploded in the faces of the visitors even more were regular and costly little mistakes.
When skipper Stephen Moore rumbled over for his 20th Super Rugby try from a well-worked maul off an attacking lineout, the Reds had a 5-0 jump.
The momentum was given straight back when Samu Kerevi spilt the kick-off and the Chiefs sustained a counter for the Kane Hames try.
Late in the half, lock Lukhan Tui spilt a smart, short 22m dropout and Chiefs centre Charlie Ngatai was soon scoring 80m downfield when centre Campbell Magnay and Cooper couldn't make their tackles with the Reds reduced to 14 men.
Down 20-12 after an even first half, the Reds still had hope until Paia'aua had the ball ripped from his grasp by All Blacks flanker Sam Cane from the kick-off.
In a blink, lock Dominic Bird was plunging over. The night was already over when the Reds scrum switched off and the Chiefs grabbed a big tighthead to set up the second try of golden oldie Stephen Donald, a late inclusion at flyhalf, at 33, for the injured Aaron Cruden.
The Reds missed the absent Karmichael Hunt (knee) more than anyone because fill-in Paia'aua was all at sea in the unfamiliar fullback role where he was turned inside out in defence several times.
Paia'aua surging into a gap off a fine Cooper pass late in the game in what was his only highlight to help set-up the Campbell Magnay try.
Cooper played controlled rugby in the first half, No.8 Scott Higginbotham made metres up the middle despite a shoulder stinger and replacement hooker Alex Mafi pounced on a loose ball to get the Magnay try rolling.
It has entered a fourth barren season without a win on Kiwi soil for the Reds, who last tasted success in 2013 in Hamilton when they toppled the Chiefs.
The positive intent from the Reds was admirable in the first half. Four times they were in range of a penalty goal attempt but on each occasion they elected to kick to touch to set up lineout drives from 10m or closer to the tryline.
Two produced tries. The first rolling maul was perfectly executed for Moore.
The second was stalled but a Cooper cutout pass was deflected into the arms of winger Eto Nabuli who gleefully accepted his seventh try of the season and a 12-7 lead.
There are always hints from the Reds but a 2-8 record is the same old story on the table.