The Queensland Reds have scored three tries to two but lost 29-20 to the Chiefs, Damian McKenzie's perfect boot denying them a slice of history in their Super Rugby Pacific quarter-final.

Suliasi Vunivalu scored twice in arguably his best outing of the season for the Reds while Harry Wilson complemented his efforts with a try too.

But an opportunistic Chiefs' try after the halftime siren and a perfect seven kicks at goal from their No.10 McKenzie proved critical as the hosts triumphed in Hamilton on Saturday.

It ensured the top-ranked side avoided becoming the first New Zealand team to lose on home soil to an Australian side in a Super Rugby play-off game.

The Chiefs had lost just once all season, but that blemish came against the Reds last month in a monumental New Plymouth boilover that was their first win across the ditch in 10 years.

The Reds (5-9) limped into the playoffs in eighth but looked the part in a patient, tactical performance that took the Chiefs outside their comfort zone for 73 minutes.

That was when big loose forward Pita Gus Sowakula rolled over under the posts to seal the win for the hosts.

Before that the Reds pushed and prodded the favourites in a cagey effort featuring plenty of back-and-forth long kicks.

Willing to back their defence, the Reds put several big hits on Chiefs playmaker McKenzie and through re-built No.13 Filipo Daugunu forced errors.

The Reds turned over a scrum on their own line, Josh Flook nailing a 50-22 kick on the run that lead to Vunivalu's try off a James O'Connor cut-out pass.

Tom Lynagh missed the conversion and then an easier penalty kick from another crunching Daugunu tackle, the Chiefs edging ahead courtesy of McKenzie's accurate boot.

He kicked three straight three-pointers before Wilson timed his pluck from the ruck just right to roll over for the Reds' second try.


Again Lynagh missed the conversion, but they threatened again when the Reds' depleted pack won another penalty against the competition's best scrum.

But their usually-reliable lineout let them down, the Chiefs hitting top gear to score after the halftime siren through Emoni Narawa and snatch a 14-10 lead.

Daugunu went off with a shoulder injury to begin the second half but the Reds kept at it, Vunivalu grabbing the ball from the ruck and skipping to complete his try double.

Lynagh, who had kicked a long-range penalty then managed a superb 50-22 of his own, nailed the conversion to put the Reds ahead before a McKenzie penalty swung it again.

A Flook try-saving tackle helped the Reds win a penalty on their line but there would be no fairytale as the Chiefs scored last and departing Reds coach Brad Thorn was forced to sign off with a brave loss.

CHIEFS (1-15): Aidan Ross, Samisoni Taukei'aho, John Ryan, Brodie Retallick, Josh Lord, Samipeni Finau, Sam Cane (co-c), Pita Gus Sowakula, Brad Weber (co-c), Damian McKenzie, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Rameka Poihipi, Anton Lienert-Brown, Emoni Narawa, Shaun Stevenson

RESERVES: Bradley Slater, Ollie Norris, George Dyer, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Luke Jacobson, Cortez Ratima, Josh Ioane, Daniel Rona

REDS (1-15): Peni Ravai, Matt Faessler, Sef Fa'agase, Angus Blyth, Ryan Smith, Seru Uru, Fraser McReight, Harry Wilson, Tate McDermott (c), Tom Lynagh, Josh Flook, James O'Connor, Filipo Daugunu, Suliasi Vunivalu, Jock Campbell

RESERVES: Richie Asiata, Dane Zander, Zane Nonggorr, Lopeti Faifua, Jake Upfield, Kalani Thomas, Lawson Creighton, Taj Annan

Referee: Angus Gardner

Assistant Referees: Damon Murphy, Matt Kellahan