The Jekyll-and-Hyde Queensland Reds roared back to their entertaining best with a withering second-half to knock the Chiefs off the top of the Super Rugby table in Brisbane on Sunday.
The Reds resuscitated their play-off hopes by ending the Chiefs nine-match winning streak with a pulsating 42-27 comeback victory in front of an appreciative Australian season-high crowd of 36,479.
Down and seemingly out at 25-8 behind just before halftime, the defending champions produced a four-try blitz in 12 minutes to turn the afternoon special on its head.
The victory – Queensland’s first with an attacking bonus point this season – chopped the Brumbies lead at the top of the Australian conference to eight points with six rounds left.
The uplifting triumph was made sweeter by sidelined playmaker Quade Cooper giving the best indication yet he’ll remain next year, saying he would find it very difficult to leave.
But it didn’t look like Mother’s Day would end so rosy after a forgettable first 38 minutes against the in-form Kiwis.
Looking fitter, faster and sharper, the Chiefs cut the Reds to ribbons late in the first half after trailing 8-3, scoring three tries in eight minutes.
Aaron Cruden and Sonny Bill Williams were instrumental as they played some scintillating sevens-like rugby off kick-returns and counter-attack.
Five-eighth Cruden drew in extra Reds defenders at will and set the Chiefs on their roll with a superb half-break and off-load before finishing off a 60m raid by popping a pass for Williams to stroll over untouched.
Williams set up the next, a brilliant 80m kick-return, by attracting both Reds second-rowers and setting his outside men free for flanker Liam Messam to finish.
Falling off tackles and making poor defensive reads, Queensland looked out of it when prop Sona Taumalolo burrowed over for his eighth try of the season.
But Horwill’s decision to knock back an easy three points with a penalty in front on halftime was rewarded when Ben Lucas ducked under a Cruden tackle to cross out wide.
Lucas’s try turned the match as the Reds came out of the sheds full of beans and ran over three more tries in the next 11 minutes, sparked by a roll of continuous pick-and-drives from the restart.
Man-of-the-match Will Genia produced the best with an individual 60m sprint from the scrum base which resembled his match-winner from last year’s final triumph over the Crusaders.
Goalkicker Mike Harris slotted six from seven from all angles and put the icing on the cake with a drop goal for a 12-point lead.
But Queensland were fortunate in the final quarter-hour not to lose fullback Luke Morahan to the sin bin after a spear tackle on Williams.
Referee Marius Jonker didn’t pick up Morahan’s number which allowed him to stay on the field and later make crucial back-to-back, try-saving tackles on Andrew Horrell and Robbie Robinson.
Luckless Chiefs centre Richard Kahui suffered a shoulder dislocation.