It took 14 matches over three weeks but the Queensland Reds finally got Australia on the board in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman with a 40-34 victory over the Chiefs in front of 10,200 fans in Townsville on Saturday.
New Zealand teams had won all of the first 13 contests in the competition, a streak continued on Saturday with third straight wins over Australian opposition for the Crusaders and Blues.
A rout looked on the cards when the Super Rugby AU champion Reds raced out to a 33-3 halftime lead after Chiefs playmaker Damian McKenzie had been dismissed for a dangerous tackle in the 22nd minute.
Five tries in the last half an hour brought the Super Rugby Aotearoa runners-up to within a score of a sensational comeback, however, and it was with relief rather than triumph that the Reds kicked the ball into touch to end the contest.
"It was a lot tighter than we'd have really wanted it," said Reds co-captain Liam Wright.
"We gave ourselves an electric start, capitalised on some ill-discipline. Yeah, really not happy with that second half ... but we got the win we wanted in front of our Queensland fans."
The Chiefs already had winger Chase Tiatia in the sin bin for a knock-down that saw the Reds awarded an early penalty try when All Blacks fullback McKenzie crashed into the head of Tate McDermott and was shown the red card.
The incident came during the move that led to Reds centre Isaac Henry scoring the first of his two tries in his first Super Rugby start, giving the home side a 12-3 lead.
By the time Shaun Stevenson came on in the 43rd minute to replace McKenzie, as allowed under law variations used in the competition, Henry had added his second try and winger Suliasi Vunivalu and prop Feao Fotuaika had also crossed.
Flanker Pita Gus Sowakula scored a first try for the Chiefs in the 52nd minute to cut the deficit to 33-8 and further scores from Tupou Vaa’i, Reuben O’Neill, Bailyn Sullivan and Xavier Roe followed as the visitors ran riot.
Winger Filipo Daugunu had added a sixth try for the Reds in the 57th minute, however, and that ultimately proved decisive.