The Chiefs have held on for a 22-16 victory against the Melbourne Rebels at Waikato Stadium on Saturday night to get their fourth win of the 2014 season.
It was the Chiefs' strong defence that held them steady throughout the game, combined with the accurate kicking of flyhalf Gareth Anscombe (in the absence of Aaron Cruden) and the persistence in possession that were the key factors in their victory.
The Rebels became more competitive as the game wore on, but still lacked the killer instinct to get themselves the tries and dangerous carries forward in order to put the Chiefs in any serious danger.
Melbourne focused on clean defending during the week in training with an aim of preventing penalties, yet it was three penalties within the first twelve minutes of the first half that gave the Chiefs their first points -- all converted truly by Anscombe.
Relentless pushing from the Chiefs at the ruck earned them their first try shortly after. Anscombe found the gap in the Rebels defence and made a dash to ten metres out from the line; lock Michael Fitzgerald finished the job by going over following more persistent running and hitting from the Chiefs team.
The Rebels managed to get themselves back into the contest by dominating possession at the end of the half, and a chance at scoring a try almost eventuated when Bryce Hegarty managed to break the line and gain some metreage, but it ended with no result for Melbourne.
It was an inconsistent first half from the Rebels, conceding almost 75% of possession in the first twenty minutes but ending with 68% in their favour by the end. Despite this amount of possession, it was what they were doing with it that became their downfall.
Missed opportunities and fumbles hurt them; and as one particular Sky Sports UK analyst put it: "Melbourne just drop the ball for no reason," and this was definitely the case.
The Rebels defence was being pressured hard by the constant forays and quick rucks by the Chiefs, who were trying to catch the Rebels out -- and did on several occassions.
Two Jason Woodward penalties salvaged a little part of an overall underwhelming first half, which ended 19-6 in favour of the Chiefs.
A promising bit of play from Melbourne at the start of the second saw them do what the Chiefs did to them in the first half and apply pressure by constantly moving forward, and it ended in a Shota Horie try thanks to some quick hands and exploiting gaps in the defence.
Scott Higginbotham received a yellow card in the 55th minute for illegitimately claiming possession in the ruck one-too-many times, and the Chiefs quickly added three more points to their total several minutes later.
Another penalty to Jason Woodward brought the Rebels within six and gave them hope once again, and it became a mad dash for the line in the final fifteen minutes.
Luke Burgess was instrumental at the ruck, setting up the crucial plays to get Melbourne forward, and the team pushed hard in dying minutes of the game to get the try, but it eluded them once again in a game against the Chiefs.
In the end, a turnover of possession in the final minute secured the win for the team from Waikato.
Only one try apiece for each team, but it was the boot of Anscombe that set the sides apart.
For the first time this season the Chiefs didn't have the majority of possession, with the Rebels ending up with 104 more metres than their opponents, 40 more carries and 57% of the possession share. Once again though, it was the effectiveness of the Rebels possession (or lack thereof) that cost them in the end.
This win for the Chiefs gets them to 24 points and moves them up into second on the Super Rugby table for the time being, whilst Melbourne remain in 13th position on the ladder but gain a bonus point for losing by less than seven points.
The Chiefs will remain in Waikato for next week and will host the Crusaders on Saturday, while the Rebels return to AAMI Park and will play the Western Force for the second time this season.
HAVE YOUR SAY: Were the Rebels promising enough to suggest they can get more wins this season? Or is there still a lot of improving to do?
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