Chiefs fullback Gareth Anscombe scored 24 points as his side survived a late fightback to take all five points on offer, beating the Rebels 39-33 in their Vodacom Super Rugby match in Melbourne.
Anscombe scored three tries, and was denied a fourth by a TMO decision as his team picked up their bonus point before halftime, but in the end the New Zealanders had to fight to keep the home side from scoring an upset win as the Rebels attacked until the final whistle was blown.
The match was almost overshadowed by some strange television match official decisions, as two tries were given where passes looked clearly forward, while Anscombe’s fourth was ruled a knock on when replays didn’t show a clear knock.
Still, the Chiefs raced to an early lead with two excellent tries, but the Rebels kept in touch by scoring when it mattered and upped the tempo in the second half with the return of Kurtley Beale, who looked sharp and slick after missing several weeks of action because of personal problems.
The Chiefs were on the board as early as the second minute as their first attacking foray into Rebels territory allowed Anscombe to appear at the end of a backline movement and go over in the corner untouched.
Things didn’t get much better for the home side as seven minutes later Chiefs midfielder Bundee Aki used the referee well as a shield to flummox the defence and stepped his way past two defenders to score a lovely try untouched.
With both sides looking to give the ball some air, turnovers were inevitable, but the Chiefs lost the ball twice and won it back thanks to the snaffling hands of Sam Cane whose second turnover sent the ball wide for Anscombe to run in again for this second try.
It wasn’t long before Tim Nanai-Williams found a hole in the defence and sent Anscombe away for his hat-trick try to put the Chiefs 24-7 up.
Big Hugh Pyle took a perfect ball from James O’Connor to bring the Rebels back into the game and leave them 10 points adrift at the break but it was the Chiefs who upped the ante in the second half.
After demolishing the Rebels scrum four times, the ball finally came out to Sam Cane, who had an easy stroll over the line to make the score 31-14 and threaten a big win.
But then the momentum of the game changed and the Rebels brought on Beale, whose interplay with James O’Connor, rotating the playmaker role, brought them back into the game.
Beale popped a short ball to Pyle for his second of the evening and then – after Anscombe slotted a penalty – played a beautiful one-two with O’Connor before putting Nick Phipps away with 30 metres to bring the Rebels within eight points of the visitors.
But then disaster struck for the Rebels uprising, as Brodie Retallick charged down a poor clearance by O’Connor and claimed the try, and while Anscombe missed the conversion, the 13 point cushion was looking too much with just nine minutes to play.
It didn’t stop the Rebels though, as Beale worked his magic to show and go, beating the defence and running untouched for a try to give the home side some hope.
And while Anscombe’s fourth was disallowed, the Rebels continued to attack and were close to the Chiefs line when they simply ran out of time.
While the game was exceptionally entertaining, both sides will be unhappy with their defensive structures with the Rebels once again ruing the poor start they had to the match.
Rebels - Tries: Scott Higginbotham, Hugh Pyle (2), Nick Phipps, Kurtley Beale. Conversions: James O' Connor (4).
Chiefs - Tries: Gareth Anscombe (3), Bundee Aki, Sam Cane, Brodie Retallick. Conversions: Anscombe (3). Penalty: Anscombe.