The Reds travelled to Hamilton with few hopes, conceded three tries in the first 20 minutes, but bounced back to beat the Chiefs 23-18 on Friday.
The Reds travelled to Hamilton with few hopes, conceded three tries in the first 20 minutes, but beat the Chiefs 23-18 on Friday.
Quade Cooper's kicking precision, in direct contrast to opposite number Stephen Donald's awful night, made a significant difference as the fly-half finally won a game in the town where he grew up.
The Chiefs' coaching staff had voiced their irritation at being forced to play on a Friday after a three-week tour spanning eleven time zones from which many players had only returned on Monday, citing understandable concerns over fatigue.
They looked at times to be justified claims, with the Chiefs forwards slow to react at times and the backs becoming more and more ragged with their handling, meaning the Reds began to get back into the game despite a desperate opening.
Within ten minutes the Chiefs looked to be cruising. Three minutes in Sitiveni Sivivatu had powered through some tackles that showed just how rabbit-in-headlights the young Reds back three were at the game's outset.
Six minutes later Sivivatu sparked a sweeping counter-attack down the left which covered half the field, before the ball was swung right for a typically racy finish from Lelia Masaga – dancing feet celebration and all.
Stephen Donald couldn't convert either of the tries, nor the third, scored by Sona Taumalolo, but at least it was his scorching break that led to the ruck 5m out from which Taumalolo was able to barge over. Out wide, the Chiefs were rampant.
They may have struggled out wide, but the Reds puts up plenty of fight in the forwards and when Sivivatu was given offside chasing up a kick, the solid Reds scrum gave a platform from which Quade Cooper was able to pop a delicious little pass to Will Chambers off his wing, off Cooper's shoulder, and under the posts.
Donald finally found his radar just after the half-hour with a penalty, after Brando Va'aulu was yellow-carded for a dangerous tackle on Sivivatu but still the forward pressure from the Reds kept the Chiefs frustrated, enough to win two penalties for Cooper to land and reduce the gap to 18-13 even when down to 14 men.
Mistakes had crept into the Chiefs' game by then and they looked even more sluggish after the break.
Cooper missed a penalty which would have made the game a two-pointer and Chiefs coach Ian foster reacted to the bullying his pack was suffering by bringing on front row replacements.
Almost immediately they won a penalty, but Donald again put his kick to the right. He left the field shortly afterwards. On 57 minutes, Cooper landed his third to make it 18-16 and the home side looked hangdog.
More Chiefs ball was spilled in the centre and Luke Morahan hacked ahead before displaying blistering speed to beat Muliaina to the ball, hack ahead once more and get the bounce, just as Masaga caught up. But Morahan had enough momentum to get over the line by the posts and Cooper's conversion made it 23-18 to the visitors.
Cue the Chiefs' arousal from their slumber. Masaga danced down the right and found Aled de Malmanche inside but the Chiefs then went right again when they should have gone left and lost the ball.
With the backs misfiring the forwards took the job on for the final quarter-hour. They had no fewer than thirteen plugs at the Reds' line at one point but then Daniel Braid rounded off some fabulous Reds defence by catching Liam Messam holding onto the ball.
Then, after Morahan had again hacked a spilled ball downfield, it was the Chiefs' turn to defend grittily for ten phases, with Messam's tackle on Chambers proving the key moment. Eight minutes to go.
Turinui broke some limp midfield tackling to set up more field position and the Reds would surely have wrapped it up had Chambers managed to hold on to Turinui's scoring pass two phases later.
But despite a fraught final two minutes, which included a botched Chiefs line-out on their own line, the Reds clung on.
Man of the match: A close call, as both Will Genia and Quade Cooper did so well with all the scrappy ball that came their way. But when a win is based on such sterling forward effort you look to the pack and nobody did more than Daniel Braid.
For the Chiefs:
Tries: Sivivatu, Masaga, Taumalolo
For the Reds:
Tries: Chambers, Morahan
Cons: Cooper 2
Pens: Cooper 3
Chiefs: 15 Mils Muliaina (c), 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Callum Bruce, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Colin Bourke, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Culum Retallick, 4 Romana Graham, 3 Nathan White, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Sona Taumalolo.
Replacements: 16 Aled de Malmanche, 17 Toby Smith, 18 Jarrad Hoeata, 19 Luke Braid, 20 Junior Poluleuligaga, 21 Mike Delany, 22 Dwayne Sweeney.
Reds: 15 Luke Morahan, 14 Will Chambers, 13 Morgan Turinui, 12 Anthony Faingaa, 11 Brando Va'aulu, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia (c), 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 Van Humphries, 4 Adam Byrnes, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Ben Daley.
Replacements: 16 Sean Hardman, 17 Greg Holmes, 18 Robert Simmons, 19 Jake Schatz, 20 Ben Lucas, 21 Ben Tapuai, 22 Blair Connor.
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)