Flanker Sam Cane was dynamic in the loose while lock Brodie Retallick was outstanding in all facets in a timely reminder of the presence he brings when in his best touch. There was also a highly encouraging return by second five-eighths Charlie Ngatai in his first game for a year while centre Anton Lienert-Brown also showed improved form.
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The ever-present wing James Lowe was a constant menace, always looking for work or to put his trusty left boot to work, while it was his tidying up at a mid-field breakdown before selling a dummy, breaking a tackle and heading downfield for what became the bonus point try for his side.
It all combined to put heavy pressure on the Reds defence, and on the night they disappointed with some poor tackle attempts being punished.
It was a game of thrust and counter-thrust from the outset with the Reds looking to use the penalty kick to the corner and their lineout drive as often as possible.
The tactic provided the opening try in the 10th minute for hooker, Australia Test captain Stephen Moore on the end of the bumble to score.
Almost out of the blocks from the re-start the Chiefs surged onto attack with some strong charges by Retallick and Cane carrying the side to the line and from a breakdown close to the goal-line it was prop Kane Hames who won the verdict from the TMO for a try.
Penalties conceded by the Reds in their own half saw fullback Damian McKenzie land goals in the 22nd and 25th minutes to reclaim the lead after the second followed flanker George Smith being sin-binned for a high, and armless, shot on Cane.
In the 35th minute, close to their own line, the Chiefs broke free courtesy of Ngatai breaking the defence wide open, then making another impact downfield before the ruck was created from which late replacement first five-eighths Stephen Donald kicked deep into the Reds' 22m area. On the slippery surface they failed to control the loose ball and it was grounded behind the line after they carried it back.
Another penalty was conceded and the Chiefs mounted a lineout drive which resulted in some alarms and excursions before Retallick straightened the play and in the subsequent action it was Ngatai who slid over the ground to finish what he had started.
Cane was up to reclaim the kick that started the second half to set in train a movement which saw Kerr-Barlow and Retallick take the ball to the line before a short pass saw lock Dominic Bird cross within a minute.
There was a controversy after the restart when the Reds contested how a ball was lost, but a lineout throw made quickly by the Chiefs saw Lowe make good ground up the middle of the field before he was stopped and in the resulting movement it was Donald who stepped around the defence to run in for a 44th minute try.
If there was any argument about that try there wasn't in the 52nd minute. Lowe had put a long kick to the Reds' corner. The Chiefs stole the lineout only to lose the ball in a knock-on. But they won a tighthead at the scrum after a superb shove and it freed the ball for Donald to score his second.
The Reds showed that in spite of the score mounting against them they had the presence of mind to take a chance when it came at a turnover in the 57th minute with fullback Duncan Paia'aua making a strong break to link with Nabuli whose in-field pass found centre Campbell Magnay who scored.
Scorers: Chiefs 46 (Kane Hames, Charlie Ngatai, Dominic Bird, Stephen Donald 2, James Lowe tries; Damian McKenzie 5 con, 2 pen) Reds 17 (Stephen Moore, Eto Nabuli, Campbell Magnay tries; Quade Cooper con ). HT: 20-12
Welcome back Charlie Ngatai! Great to see him back out there in @ChiefsRugby colours. #CHIvRED pic.twitter.com/hOBSUkexce— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyNZ) May 6, 2017