Chiefs edge Melbourne Rebels 30-33 at the death in a see-sawing Super Rugby Pacific clash at AAMI Park, Melbourne.
Ollie Norris scored a late try to break the Rebels’ resistance as the Chiefs won an eight-try thriller in Victoria to move up the Super Rugby ladder.
This see-sawing Trans-Tasman clash saw the lead change hands five times before Norris’ dagger ended an entertaining contest.
Luke Jacobson, Chase Tiatia, Samisoni Taukei’aho, and Emoni Narawa also dotted down for the men from the Waikato.
Josh Ioane had a mixed bag comeback match at first receiver, the 26-year-old was instrumental in two of his team’s tries as he ghosted through the opposition.
Ioane did, however, throw an intercept to Carter Gordon for Melbourne’s first try and the youngster’s misplaced pass gifted Andrew Kellaway an early second-half score.
Ioane kicked four conversions (8 pts)to go with his one assist.
Reece Hodge also crossed for the Victorians, who almost snuck over the line.
Hodge, who had a super game, added three penalties and conversions apiece for 20 points.
The Rebels had not beaten the Chiefs since 2015, and Kevin Foote’s charges looked like pulling off the impossible.
Despite one of their best performances of the 2022 season, the Australians could not get over their New Zealand hoodoo.
The Aussies have a terrible record versus Kiwi opposition, especially the Chiefs.
The Chiefs’ 90% win rate against Melbourne Rebels is their best against any team in the history of the competition.
They have won one of their last 12 Super Rugby matches at home to their Trans-Tasman rivals while losing eight of their last nine.
A terrible start saw the Rebels claw back a 12-3 deficit to lead by four in the 77th-minute before disaster struck
Hodge opened the scoring before a double blow saw the home team trailing by nine.
Skipper Jacobson crashed over for the Hamilton side’s opening score before Ioane helped set up Tiatia’s 31st-minute try.
Pone Fa’amausili’s iffy sin-binning saw the Rebels score 14 unanswered points to take a 17-12 lead after 47 minutes.
But Gordon and Kellaway’s opportunism put their side in front after the break.
The Hamilton side hit back with a quickfire double of their own when Taukei’aho and Narawa scored inside nine minutes.
Ioane converted both tries to put the visitors 26-17 ahead.
Hodge scored and converted before knocking over two late goals to edge the hosts 30-26 in front.
But the denouement was still to come as the Chiefs applied the dagger.
Norris’ bulldozing run won the day and lift the Chiefs into fourth on the Super Rugby Pacific standings.
This gut-wrenching three-point defeat makes playoff qualification a slim prospect.
A profligate Melbourne Rebels trailed the Chiefs by two despite all their mistakes, and late first-half yellow card
The New Zealanders led 12-3 with less than four minutes remaining in the opening stanza.
Jacobson and Tiatia’s scores saw the Clayton McMillan’s side take a nine-point lead after 26 minutes.
But Gordon’s opportunistic try against the run of play before the hooter, brought his side back into the contest.
But Fa’amausili’s yellow card sparked the Rebels into action when he made a huge hit on Naitoa Ah Kuoi.
Ah Kuoi’s fellow boiler-room partner Josh Lord went for Fa’amausili, who went to the bin for pushing Lord in the face.
It was soft, and a bit of a copout by the referee; however, Ioane’s stray pass was gobbled up by Gordon.
The 21-year-old standoff raced 75 metres to score under the posts. Hodge converted to make it 10-12 at the interval.
The fullback had missed a shot at goal before opening the scoring with his second attempt in the 19th minute.
But Foote’s men struggled to take their chances, scoring one one entry from seven into the opposition’s 22.
McMillan’s men, on the other hand, scored two tries from three entries.
Melbourne continued to make it hard for themselves.
They missed 18 tackles to five, while giving away eight penalties to five, yet only trailed by two despite Fa’amausili’s harsh yellow card.
Ioane, back from an injury, began to carve open the opposition. The young playmaker made two linebreaks from around halfway to set up the visitor’s first try.
Ioane’s second linebreak set up a penalty which led to Jacobson crashing over next to the poles after some sustained pressure inside the Rebels’ 22.
The first five converted before combining with Rameka Poihipi to send Tiatia – alone on the wing – away for the Chiefs’ second score.
Poihipi collected Ioane’s inside pass with an angled run before sending out a long floated pass to Tiatia.
Ioane missed the touchline conversion, but the visitors looked ominous as the home team fell off tackles at an alarming rate.
Foot’s charges slipped 15 tackles to five, but they somehow stayed in the game with their late score.
The Rebels struck soon after the break, despite being down to 14, but more Ioane magic saw the Chiefs retake the lead
The hosts came out firing after the break, scoring a second try while down to 14 players and conceding no points.
Kellaway capitalised on Ioane’s mistake to put the Rebels in front 17-12 after Hodge’s conversion.
On 55 minutes, the Chiefs came roaring back through Taukei’aho.
The hooker crashed over from close range, dragging four players over with him.
Ioane’s midfield break again had the Rebels chasing shadows. The standoff put Kaleb Trask away, but the fullback got hauled in near the line.
Narawa carried short, but Taukei’aho did the rest. Narawa soon had a five-pointer of his own when his fancy footwork extended the tourist’s lead.
The try came from a lineout with the 26-year-old winger standing at the first receiver.
Narawa took Brad Weber’s pass and slipped past Brad Wilkin before swerving the cover defenders to score under the sticks.
Ioane, who was having trouble with the wind and his tee, converted to make it 26-17 to the Kiwis.
Hodge hit back two minutes later. Rivez Reihana’s hesitation under a high ball cost his side as Hodge snaffled the ball, and sped away untouched.
The Aussie fullback added another two to keep his side in the game.
Two late penalties, either side of Jacobson’s soft yellow card, saw Hodge edge his side 30-26 ahead with less than three to play.
The captain went to the naughty step for a high hit on Stacey Ili. It allowed the Rebels an opportunity for a lineout or scrum on the opposition’s line or the points.
But there would be no fairytales in Victoria. Foote’s men took the points, and just like the first half, it was the wrong call, and it cost them the game.
The Chiefs won the restart and went down the field.
The Hamilton side went through the phases and won the game when Norris crashed through three tackles to win the game and take the dub.
What a sickening blow for the resilient Rebels.
Final Score: Rebels 30 (10) Chiefs 33 (12)
Tries – Gordon, Kellaway, Hodge
Pen – Hodge (3)
Con – Hodge (3)
Cards – Fa’amausili (Yellow, 37′)
Tries – Jacobson, Tiatia, Taukei’aho, Narawa, Norris
Con – J. Ioane (4)
Cards – Jacobson (Yellow, 75′)
Referee: Reuben Keane
Assistant Ref 1: Graham Cooper
Assistant Ref 2: James Palmer
TMO: Oli Kellett
Rebels: 15 Reece Hodge, 14 George Worth, 13 Andrew Kellaway, 12 Stacey Ili, 11 Glen Vaihu, 10 Carter Gordon, 9 James Tuttle, 8 Rob Leota, 7 Brad Wilkin, 6 Michael Wells (captain), 5 Josh Hill, 4 Matt Philip, 3 Pone Fa’amausili, 2 Jordan Uelese, 1 Matt Gibbon.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Cameron Orr, 18 Cabous Eloff, 19 Josh Canham, 20 Richard Hardwick, 21 Joe Powell, 22 Nick Jooste, 23 Lukas Ripley.
Chiefs: 15 Kaleb Trask, 14 Emoni Narawa, 13 Rameka Poihipi, 12 Quinn Tupaea, 11 Chase Tiatia, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Brad Weber (co-captain), 8 Luke Jacobson, 7 Sam Cane (co-captain), 6 Samipeni Finau, 5 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 4 Josh Lord, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 1 Aidan Ross.
Replacements: 16 Tyrone Thompson, 17 Ollie Norris, 18 Atu Moli, 19 Pita Gus Sowakula, 20 Mitch Brown, 21 Xavier Roe, 22 Rivez Reihana, 23 Kaveinga Finau.