SYDNEY (AP) — The Hamilton-based Chiefs started and finished strongly to beat the Melbourne Rebels 36-26 Sunday and wrap up the fourth round of the Australia-New Zealand Super Rugby tournament.
The match was the second involving the Rebels to be played in Sydney because of a community outbreak of COVID-19 in Austalia’s second-largest city. Travel between Melbourne and New Zealand currently is suspended.
Center Anton Lienert-Brown, fullback Kaleb Trask and replacement center Chase Tiatia scored two tries each as the Chiefs held out the Rebels in a see-sawing match at Sydney’s Leichardt Oval.
Lienert-Brown’s double and Trask’s first try gave the Chiefs a 19-0 lead after 25 minutes. On each occasion, the Chiefs played the Rebels’ defense like a concertina, drawing them wide, then working the ball back infield.
The Rebels rallied strongly with two tries to backrower Isi Naisarani and another to center Stacy Ili after flyhalf Carter Gordon had recovered his own kick behind the Chiefs’ defense. The teams were level, 19-19, at halftime.
The Chiefs stretched away again with the first two tries of the second half, to Tiatia and Trask. Again, the Rebels stuck back with a try to replacement Andrew Kellalway which cut the lead to 31-26.
Tiatia’s second try in the 65th minute clinched the match for the Chiefs but they fell short of the bonus point that might have given them the faintest of chances of reaching the tournament final.
The fourth of the tournament’s five rounds complicated rather than clarified the contest for finals places.
The Auckland-based Blues lead the tournament with 19 points and an unbeaten record, a point ahead of the Dunedin-based Highlanders and Christchurch-based Crusaders.
The Wellington-based Hurricanes blew their chance to seal a final place when they lost 12-10 to the ACT Brumbies on Saturday and they dropped back to fourth place, three points behind the Blues.
The Blues play the Western Force and the Crusaders play the Melbourne Rebels away from home in next week’s final round. The Hurricanes and Highlanders have more difficult assignments against the Australian champion Queensland Reds and runners-up the ACT Brumbies who are the only Australian teams to have won matches in the trans-Tasman competition this season.
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