The Chiefs have stolen a 33-30 victory from the Rebels in the final seconds in Melbourne – with replacement prop Ollie Norris scoring a try with time almost up to break the home side’s hearts.
It was Norris’ first try in Super Rugby and it could prove to be extremely important as it pushed his side into the competition’s top four.
It was a shattering finish for the Rebels who were within touching distance of a famous victory during a difficult season for them.
The Chiefs would have arrived at Aami Park with expectations of a bonus point victory after the Blues demolished the Rebels at Eden Park last weekend, but the home side showed a greater desire during a match in which the lead changed hands several times.
It was a dramatic end to a match in which the Chiefs, missing the yellow-carded Luke Jacobson, were strangely flat despite having the greater attacking firepower.
They failed to win enough possessions and hardly fired a shot in the opening quarter, the Rebels enjoying a huge share of ball and territory and the home side should have come away with more than a solitary Reece Hodge penalty for their efforts.
Hodge had earlier missed a penalty from close range, but finally got one after lock Matt Philip went extremely close to a try after a bruising run by the impressive No.8 Robert Leota. Replays suggested Philip may have put the ball on the line.
The Chiefs launched only one attack in that time, a promising effort that foundered on a penalty advantage, which Josh Ioane, back in the side after recovering from a rib injury, promptly kicked dead rather than for the touch he was aiming for.
Still, their attacking quality soon shone through, loose forward Jacobson crashing over from a ruck near the line and wing Chase Tiatia scoring in the left corner from a pinpoint wide pass from fullback Kaleb Trask.
Their support play and offloading was on a different level to the Rebels and the match appeared to be slipping from the home side’s grasp.
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The sinbinning of No.3 Pone Fa’amausili for retaliation after a stunning tackle, albeit while offside, on Naitoa Ah Kuoi, late in the half didn’t bode well for the Rebels, but an intercept and 75m run to the line by first-five Carter Gordon narrowed the score 12-10 and gave them hope at halftime.
The sight of the under-manned Rebels scrum marching the Chiefs backwards just after the break for a penalty would have raised eyebrows in the visiting team’s coaching box, but while the Rebels botched the resulting lineout, they struck soon after with a piece of opportunism.
A loose Ioane pass was kicked through by Andrew Kellaway and the midfielder was over by the posts to put the Rebels back in the lead 17-12.
Tries from Samisoni Taukei'aho and Emoni Naraway gave the lead back to the Chiefs but a stunning try from Hodge, who caught a high Gordon kick with no defenders around him and strolled under the posts, narrowed the gap to 26-24.
With Jacobson shown a yellow card for a high tackle, the game was slipping away from the Chiefs.
A Hodge penalty with three minutes remaining gave the Rebels the lead again and victory was in their sights. Sam Cane dropped the ball for the Chiefs when launching a late attack and time appeared to be running out on the visitors – they also botched an attacking lineout.
But with No.10 Ioane re-finding his groove late on, the Chiefs rolled the dice on the final attack, and Norris, the most unlikely match winner, did the rest.