Melbourne’s quest for Super Rugby Pacific redemption has fallen just short, with the Rebels going down to the Chiefs 33-30 in a Sunday afternoon thriller.
Prop Ollie Norris brushed off tacklers to score for the Chiefs in the 80th minute to deliver heartbreak for the home side at AAMI Park.
Catch every game of the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season on Stan Sport. Start your Free Sport Trial Now
Melbourne were looking to rebound from a 43-point thrashing by the Blues and while they didn’t get the win they at least did plenty to earn back respect.
Their loss meant a clean sweep of Australian teams by their Kiwi rivals through round 13 with the Chiefs moving into fourth spot on the ladder while the Rebels sit outside the finals in ninth.
“There’s a lot to like about that,” said Melbourne coach Kevin Foote.
“The most positive thing is our character.
“We had a theme for the week ‘Man in the Mirror’ – look at yourself in the mirror – and I think the boys did that brilliantly.”
Foote revealed five-eighth Carter Gordon had managed only one training session due to the flu which hit half his team over the past two weeks.
Chiefs skipper Sam Cane said his finals-bound side “got out of jail,” and coach Clayton McMillan agreed.
“We’re just struggling a bit at the moment for some continuity in our game,” McMillan said.
“I look at the last two or three minutes, and the speed and accuracy with which we played, the urgency, to get the try that ultimately sealed the match.
“We need to do that for longer because at the moment we’re in and out of games too often.”
Melbourne took the lead in the 71st minute with Reece Hodge slotting a penalty to put his team ahead 27-26 and then extended it six minutes later with another.
But the four-point buffer wasn’t enough.
Chiefs five-eighth Josh Ioane, returning from five weeks out with a rib injury, was hero and villain for his team, setting up three of their tries but also gifting the Rebels two.
Melbourne led at the 47 minute mark after scoring two tries while they were a man down, with prop Pone Fa’amausili given a yellow card for some off-the-ball antics following a massive hit on Chiefs lock Naitoa Ah Kuoi.
Ioane threw a loose pass that was toed ahead by Rebels winger Andrew Kellaway for a try.
And just before halftime Rebels five-eighth Carter Gordon also intercepted an Ioane pass and dashed 80 meters to touch down.
But the Chiefs again nudged ahead 19-17 in the 57th minute when hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho drove across the line, with Ioane adding the extras.
It looked like the men from Hamilton might run away with the match after center Emoni Narawa danced through some traffic to open up a nine point lead.
The Rebels rallied but the late try meant they still came up short.
Wallabies playmaker Matt Toomua is on track for their trip to Wellington to face the Hurricanes after missing the past three weeks following a head knock.
TRIES: Gordon, Kellaway, Hodge
CONS: Hodge 3/3
THOUGHT: Hodge 3/4
TRIES: Jacobson, Tiatia, Taukei’aho, Narawa, Norris
CONS: Ioane 4/5
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 Put 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 Inga Finau.
Referee: reuben keane
Assistant referees: Graham Cooper, James Palmer