Controversial Wallaby back Kurtley Beale made a stirring return to Super 15 action as the Chiefs defence of their Super 15 crown kept moving forward in an unconvincing fashion in Melbourne last night.
The Chiefs, who dipped out on three big TMO decisions, scraped home by 39 - 33 to retain their lead at the top of the New Zealand conference but their failure to put the lowly rated Rebels away will be concerning Dave Rennie and his fellow coaches.
Playmaker Aaron Cruden was among those to have a quiet game, but Beale made an immediate impact, after entering the game in the 47th minute.
Captain Craig Clarke admitted he was concerned at his side's inability to put a foot on the throat after roaring starts, but credit has to go to the Rebels, an unfancied side who battled bravely. And there was no doubt that the return of Beale put a spark in their game.
Beale made his return after being stood down by the club for whacking a couple of team mates in South Africa and his dancing feet had a hand in three second half tries.
Bidding to force his way into the Wallaby squad for the series against the Lions, he made an immediate statement to national coach Robbie Deans in an admittedly loose match at AAMI Park.
This game had romp written all over it before the kickoff and that's what the first half turned out to be. The Chiefs threatened to turn it into a one sided affair, notching the four-try bonus point and Gareth Anscombe nailing a hat trick of tries by the 27th minute.
The Chiefs had swooped from the opening kickoff when Brodie Retallick steamrolled over hooker Ged Robinson and Ben Tameifuna thundered down the touchline to set up Anscombe's first.
The Rebels stayed in the hunt thanks to a generous TMO decision on forward passes and the long reach of lock Hugh Pyle which brought him two tries.
The ease with which Bundee Aki and Tim Nanai-Williams broke the Rebels defence was a major warning sign for the home side, but buoyed by terrific support form the stands they stayed in the hunt right until the final seconds.
The Chiefs got the early jump on the Rebels in the second half, with a Sam Cane try after a series of scrums and penalties near the Rebels' goal line. Beale plonked the kick-off well over the touchline to make matters even worse. Pyle reached out for his second try with Beale and James O'Connor involved in the lead up.
Moments later though, O'Connor's clearing kick was charged down by Brodie Retallick whose resulting try just about settled the issue.
But the video referee found a knock on to rule out a fourth Anscombe try, and a poor lineout left the Chiefs hanging on grimly in defence for the final moments. They deserved the win, but only just.
Chiefs 39 (G. Anscombe 3, B. Aki, S. Cane, B. Retallick tries; Anscombe 3 con, pen), Rebels 33 (H. Pyle 2, S. Higginbotham, N. Phipps, K. Beale tries, J. O'Connor 4 con). Halftime: Chiefs 24 - 14.