Credit / Sky Sport
The Chiefs fought their way back from a 30-point deficit against the Reds in Queensland on Saturday night but could not edge them in the end, going down 40-34 to become the first New Zealand team to stumble against Australian opposition in the current trans-Tasman series.
The red carding of Chiefs first-five Damian McKenzie early in the first half for a shoulder to the chin of Queensland halfback Tate McDermott in a tackle threw the Waikato team off-balance and was ultimately their undoing.
The result was a fatal blow to the Chiefs' hopes of making the business end of the competition, according to coach Clayton McMillan.
"I personally think that the loss tonight is terminal, we'll be gone," he said. "We're disappointed we won't be able to contest that final, barring a minor miracle."
But miracles do sometimes happen in sport and McMillan appeared to leave the possibility open, if only slightly.
"We've got a really young squad and we need to learn the lessons from tonight and come back better. So, everything to play for."
In other games Saturday, the Blues beat the Brumbies 38-10 in Auckland to go top of the table after three rounds and the Crusaders defeated the Waratahs 54-28 in NSW. In Friday's home game, the Hurricanes dealt to the Western Force 43-6.
Reds 40 (Isaac Henry 2, Penalty try, Suliasi Vunivalu, Feao Fotuaika, Filipo Daugunu tries; James O’Connor 4 con) Chiefs 34 (Pita Gus Sowakula, Tupou Vaa’i, Reuben O’Neill, Bailyn Sullivan, Xavier Roe tries; Kaleb Trask 3 con, Damian McKenzie pen) HT: 33-3.