May 2, 2015
The Rebels picked up their first Super Rugby victory over the Chiefs in their history on Saturday as they held on to win 16-15 in Melbourne.
It wasn't pretty but the hosts will celebrate this win long into the night as they have now beaten all of New Zealand's franchises since their inception.
The Chiefs meanwhile go into their bye week five points off their conference pace-setters the Hurricanes, who overcame the Crusaders earlier on.
The Rebels came out on top in the first-half, going in 16-3 up with a man advantage after Chiefs wing James Lowe was yellow carded for using his knee to release himself from a ruck. Had that offence been let go, it could well have been the New Zealanders leading at the turnaround.
As it was, the Melbourne outfit began strongly on their home patch and landed a penalty after five minutes as fly-half Jack Debreczeni was on-target from distance after the Chiefs were offside. It was an ideal start for the hosts.
Captain and number eight Scott Higginbotham showed his intent before the end of the first quarter as three kickable penalties were snubbed. Fortunately for Higginbotham that was rewarded in the seventeenth minute as sustained pressure led to him diving over on the left for 8-0.
The Chiefs then finally enjoyed some ball and landed three points thanks to a dominant scrum, stand-in fly-half Andrew Horrell kicking that.
However, they would not score again in the half as Lowe's yellow card was compounded by the fact it also meant centre Charlie Ngatai's try from a break-out was chalked off. It could well have been 8-10 but instead Debreczeni kicked the resulting penalty to push his men 11-3 up.
Things got even better for the Rebels before the break too as scrum-half Nic Stirzaker saw a gap at the tail of a line-out before racing in for 16-3 at the turnaround.
It was a much-improved early spell to the second-half from the Chiefs as their back-three and Sonny Bill Williams looked to get their hands on the ball. Fortunately for the Rebels, however, their defence was standing firm amid a spell of pressure in their 22 in the third quarter.
It was only a matter of time before the Chiefs struck though and it came from a Rebels mistake as winger Sefanaia Naivalu fumbled a grubber kick through on his own five-metre and chasing centre Ngatai gobbled up the loose ball to score. Replacement Damian McKenzie made it 16-10.
The gap could have been extended past the one-score margin for the Rebels had Bryce Hegarty landed a penalty for Chiefs openside Sam Cane going off his feet, but he was unsuccessful and the visitors were still very much in touch as the game entered its final eighteen minutes.
Chiefs number eight Michael Leitch then scored the pivotal, possible lead-taking try, when he reached out from a close-range carry to give McKenzie a pressure kick fifteen metres in from touch. He hit the near post so the Rebels were still 16-15 to the good.
That set up a grandstand finish in Melbourne and credit to the Rebels, who didn't go into their shell and pushed hard to put the game beyond their visitors with ball in hand. In fact they turned down a shot on 73 minutes and went close via wing Dom Shipperley but were unsuccessful.
It didn't matter for the Rebels, as didn't Debreczeni's late missed penalty, as the Australian side held on to claim a memorable home victory.