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Chiefs to address mid-game slumps

Fri, 03 May 2013 14:48
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Twice in a row we've put ourselves in the deep end at the start of the game
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The defending champion Chiefs will look to address the mid-match slumps that have troubled them this season.

The Chiefs scored six tries to five to just squeak home 39-33 over the Rebels in a breathless Super Rugby game in Melbourne on Friday.

The tournament's leading points scorer, Gareth Anscombe, crossed for three tries and kicked three conversions and a penalty goal for 24 points as the Chiefs gained maximum points to take over the lead in the New Zealand conference.

However, as was the case against the Sharks last week, the Chiefs eased the foot off the gas after securing their four-try bonus point inside the first half-hour.

The New Zealanders were on track for a handsome win with their four-try bonus point and a 24-7 lead after just 27 minutes, but the Rebels ran them close when they monopolised possession and territory in the second half.

The home side got to within a converted try of pulling off an amazing win only for the Chiefs to hang on for victory with the Rebels pounding their try-line.

It was more heartbreak for the Rebels who went down narrowly in a high-scoring thriller for their third straight game after losing 26-30 to the Crusaders in Christchurch and 27-30 to the Southern Kings at home.

But a positive for the Rebels was the successful return of troubled Wallaby Kurtley Beale after missing six matches through injury and club disciplinary action for punching two teammates following Melbourne's 64-7 loss to the Sharks in Durban.

Beale came on in the 48th minute and scored a solo try five minutes from the end which gave the Rebels late hope of victory.

Fullback Anscombe was over for his fourth try in the final minutes of the match only for it to be overruled by the TMO for a knock-on in the lead-up.

Anscombe has now scored 163 points in nine games for the Chiefs to top the Super 15 point scorers this season.

He was in on the action as the Chiefs raced in four tries in a lively opening against the tackle-shy Rebels and led 24-14 at half-time.

The Chiefs always looked in control of the contest with further tries to Sam Cane and Brodie Retallick in the second half, but the Rebels doggedly refused to give in and further tries to Hugh Pyle, Nick Phipps and Beale gave them a glimmer of victory in the closing minutes.

"We do well to fight back after our mid-game slumps, but it's still something that we need to address," Chiefs skipper Craig Clarke said.

"Gareth Anscombe is a good fullback for us.

"He's good with ball in hand and he's kicking goals, which is great to tick the points over for us."

Rebels captain Scott Higginbotham was optimistic about upcoming games.

"Twice in a row we've put ourselves in the deep end at the start of the game, but the positive side is that we're fighting out of that and coming close and the next couple of games we're going to put it on them," he said.

The Rebels, who have now slipped to 2-8 this season, take on the Blues in Auckland next week, while the Chiefs are at home to Australia's Western Force.

For Rebels coach Damien Hill, it was a case of deja vu; this match was the fourth time this season that the Rebels have lost by less than a converted try.

"It doesn't get any easier," Hill said.

"The talk we just had then [with the group], about the two previous games where we came so close against teams of such high calibre, is that we don't lose heart; we continue on the path that we are on."

Hill said that the differences between where the Rebels are, and the complete performance that he is looking for, were minimal.

"We are down now in our performances to five percent, if not less [of our play letting us down]," Hill said.

"I think you saw in this match some very good passages of defence, and some very good attack, but you also saw a couple of points where our execution and accuracy wasn't there; they are the moments teams like the Chiefs will take.

"The effort is definitely there, I say it every week, but we have to maintain that focus and continual improvement because we are so close and that is the message I am giving the players."

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