Rebels boost play-off hopes

The Rebels fended off a second-half fightback from the Chiefs to claim a 16-15 win in Melbourne, writes BRENTON CHELIN.

Saturday's victory – the Rebels' first over the Chiefs in four attempts – lifts them above the Sharks and within striking distance of a play-off spot.

The Chiefs will know they missed an opportunity to keep the pressure on the Hurricanes at the top of the overall standings, as poor discipline cost them, especially during a scrappy first half.

Tries from captain Scott Higginbotham and scrumhalf Nic Stirzaker and two long-range penalties from the boot of Jack Debreczeni gave the hosts a commanding 16-3 lead at the break.

Things might've been different had Charlie Ngatai's try midway through the first half not been ruled out for a petulant knee by James Lowe, which resulted in a yellow card for the Chiefs wing.

It was during his time off the field that the Rebels took the game away from their visitors, extending their lead by eight points, a crucial margin in a low-scoring affair.

The Chiefs were much improved in the second half, as their dominance in the scrums started to tell. Ngatai brought them back within striking distance, pouncing on a clever grubber kick from Tim Nanai-Williams to cross for the Chiefs' first try.

It was all Chiefs at that stage and, when Michael Leitch dived over from short range, they looked likely to secure a comeback victory. However, Damian McKenzie struck the post with the conversion, leaving the Chiefs trailing by one point heading into the final 10 minutes.

They were unable to add to their total, though, as the Rebels kept them pinned deep in their half with a series of rolling mauls that resulted in a yellow card for Liam Messam.

The Rebels would eventually opt for the posts after they won a penalty on the hooter, but Debreczeni struck the upright with his attempt. Luckily for Higginbotham and Debreczeni, the Rebels managed to pounce on the loose ball and mercifully put the ball into touch to seal victory by the slimmest of margins.

Rebels – Tries: Scott Higginbotham, Nic Stirzaker. Penalties: Jack Debreczeni (2).
Chiefs – Tries: Charlie Ngatai, Michael Leitch. Conversion: Damian McKenzie. Penalty: Andrew Horrell.

Rebels – 15 Mike Harris, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Sefanaia Naivalu, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Nic Stirzaker, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 Jordy Reid, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Paul Alo-Emile, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Toby Smith.
Subs: 16 Tom Sexton, 17 Cruze Ah-Nau, 18 Tim Metcher, 19 Cadeyrn Neville, 20 Colby Fainga’a, 21 Luke Burgess, 22 Tom English, 23 Bryce Hegarty.

Chiefs – 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Charlie Ngatai, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 James Lowe, 10 Andrew Horrell, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam (c), 5 Michael Fitzgerald, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Hika Elliot 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Subs: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Siate Tokolahi, 18 Jamie Mackintosh, 19 Michael Allardice, 20 Johan Bardoul, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Damian McKenzie, 23 Bryce Heem.

Photo: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images