Chiefs thwart Rebels fightback
Chiefs full-back Gareth Anscombe bagged a hat-trick to help his team to a thrilling 39-33 Super Rugby win over the Rebels at AAMI Park in Melbourne on Friday.
The defending champions outscored the visitors six tries to five, but were made to work overtime to secure the win after the Rebels clawed their way back after trailing 24-7 at half-time.
The Chiefs put together a dominant first-half performance securing the four-try bonus point as the home side fought to stay in the match throughout the second half.
The visitors punished the Rebels in the opening minute when a costly handling error resulted in a try to the competition's leading points scorer, Anscombe.
It did not take long for the reigning champions to extend their lead as centre Bundee Aki burst through the defensive line before wrong footing the final defender to dot down and give the Chiefs a 12-0 advantage in the opening 10 minutes.
The home side replied soon after when captain Scott Higginbotham created the line break before linking with his winger Tom English before the number eight capped off the movement with a try.
A breakdown turnover would allow the Chiefs to strike once more as scrum-half Brendon Leonard created the opportunity and with the Rebels back peddling, the ball went through the hands as Anscombe grabbed his second.
The Melbourne side would invite the Chiefs in again as they failed to find touch and the visitors counter-attacked. In-form centre Tim Nanai-Williams broke free to send Anscombe in for a first-half hat-trick and more importantly give his side the bonus point.
Although down 24-7 the Rebels struck back through towering lock Hugh Pyle when he lunged for the tryline after the hosts displayed continuity in the lead up.
Minutes out from the break, the Chiefs were forced to defend deep in their half and a knock-on by Rebels loose forward Jarrod Saffy relieved the pressure.
The Chiefs strengthened their hold on the game as they had the Rebels backed up against their own line and the pressure eventually told as Matt Vant Leven combined with flank Sam Cane from the base of the scrum to score.
The roles were reversed minutes later as it was the Chiefs who were forced to defend for a lengthy period as Pyle crashed over for his second to reduce the lead.
An Anscombe penalty would stretch the margin out to two converted tries before the Wallabies duo James O'Connor and Kurtley Beale combined superbly to set scrum-half Nick Phipps away for the Rebels fourth try and a bonus point of their own.
However the Chiefs remained composed and applied the heat on the Rebels attack as lock Brodie Retallick charged down an attempted clearance kick by O'Connor which he regathered and dived on for the try.
The Rebels found themselves back in contention again when Beale showed his class as he sliced his way through to touch down on his return to the side.
Anscombe could feel hard done by as it appeared he had crossed for his fourth but the TMO had judged replacement back Patrick Osborne had knocked the ball forward before passing to the full-back.
In a nailbiting finish, the Chiefs were determined to hold on as they defended stoutly to claim the victory and their first against Australian opposition.
Tries: Higginbotham, Pyle 2, Phipps, Beale
Cons: O'Connor 4
Tries: Anscombe 3, Aki, Cane, Retallick
Cons: Anscombe 3
Rebels: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Tom English, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Rory Sidey, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 James O'Connor, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Jarrod Saffy, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Nic Henderson.
Replacements: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Paul Alo-Emile, 18 Luke Jones, 19 Gareth Delve, 20 Nic Stirzaker, 21 Kurtley Beale, 22 Lachlan Mitchell.
Chiefs: 15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Matt Vant Leven, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke (c), 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Toby Smith, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Tanerau Latimer, 20 Augustine Pulu, 21 Robbie Robinson, 22 Patrick Osborne.
Date: Friday, May 3
Kick-off: 19:40 local (10:40 BST, 09:40 GMT)
Referee: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Ian Smith (Australia), Richard Goswell (Australia)
Television match official: Steve Leszczynski (Australia)