Chiefs hold off plucky Rebels
Chiefs hold off plucky RebelsSHARE
The Chiefs were forced to work hard for their 22-16 victory over a gritty Rebels side at the Waikato Stadium in Hamilton on Saturday.
The defending champions raced out to an early lead, but the Rebels showed great character to fight their way back into the game and push their hosts right to the end.
The Melbourne side have the consolation of a bonus point, but they remain firmly rooted to the bottom of the Australian conference whilst the Chiefs maintain their position at the top of the New Zealand conference.
The teams scored just one try each in what was a tough match up front, with aggressive defence from both teams dominating an even contest.
The home side opened the scoring with a penalty from Aaaron Cruden's replacement Gareth Anscombe. The Rebels tried to shift the ball quickly early on, but they got caught out and after some good driving play Anscombe was able to kick another penalty to put the Chiefs 6-0 up.
The Chiefs had the ascendency in the early scrum exchanges, and a powerful shove gave Anscombe his next opportunity which he knocked over from just in front of the halfway line.
The Chiefs flyhalf got a chance to show off his running skills after that as he sliced through the Rebels defence to set up lock Michael Fitzgerald to barge his way over for the opening try.
Having conceded a point a minute the Rebels were already desperate and refused an easy kick at goal and flung it wide but they could not penetrate the Chiefs' defence.
Instead it would be the Chiefs who extended their lead further as Anscombe's fourth penalty put them 19-0 up before the Rebels opened their account with a penalty from Jason Woodward.
The Rebels continued to look for openings out wide, but some sloppy handling let them down and all they got was another Woodward penalty to trail the Chiefs 19-6 at half-time.
The visitors were first to strike after the break when a good break from wing Tom English saw Japanese hooker Shota Horie get over for their first try which cut the lead down to 19-13.
The Chiefs' response was hard and direct, but their driving play was stopped just short of the line when inside centre Bundee Aki knocked it on. Their next chance came when the ball was turned over on their own tryline and hacked ahead, with the resulting line-out ending with a yellow card for Rebels skipper Scott Higginbotham for a cynical infringement.
The Chiefs took advantage with a big shove at scrum-time and Anscombe was able to kick another penalty, but the Rebels hit back with one of their own which meant that they did not lose any ground in the time that their captain was off the field.
The Chiefs have finished well in recent weeks to claim two draws, but the Rebels seemed to have the late momentum in this match as they pushed for an upset away victory.
They had their chance to snatch victory with an attacking line-out five minutes from the end, and things got even tougher for the Chiefs when replacement prop Pauliasi Manu was shown a yellow card for a cynical infringement at the maul.
However, they coughed it up on the tryline and the Chiefs were able to clear their lines to hold on for a tough win.
Man of the match: The Rebels pack fronted up to the Chiefs well with the likes of Hugh Pyle, Shota Horie and Luke Jones all putting in big shifts, whilst wing Tom English was also impressive, but our award has to go to Chiefs flyhalf Gareth Anscombe who steered his team to a tough win.
For the Chiefs:
Pens: Anscombe 5
For the Rebels:
Pens: Woodward 3
Yellow cards: Scott Higginbotham (Rebels, 54 – Cynical infringement), Pauliasi Manu (Chiefs, 75 mins – Cynical infringement)
Chiefs: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Andrew Horrell, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Mils Muliaina, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Kane Thompson, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Tanerau Latimer, 5 Brodie Retallick (captain), 4 Michael Fitzgerald, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Rhys Marshall, 1 Jamie Mackintosh.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Ross Filipo, 20 Liam Messam, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Anton Lienert-Brown, 23 Jordan Payne.
Rebels: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Male Sau, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Tom English, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Nic Stirzaker, 8 Scott Higginbotham (captain), 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Colby Fainga'a, 5 Luke Jones, 4 Hugh Pyle, Laurie Weeks, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Pat Leafa, 17 Cruze Ah-Nau, 18 Paul Alo-Emilie, 19 Cadeyrn Neville, 20 Sean McMahon, 21 Luke Burgess, 22 Tom Kingston, 23 Angus Roberts.
Referee: Matt O'Brien (Australia)
Assistant referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)