Kurtley Beale made an unsuccessful return to Super Rugby as a first half hat-trick from Gareth Anscombe helped the Chiefs hold off a fast-finishing Rebels at AAMI Park.
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Injury and an altercation with two team-mates in South Africa meant Beale had not taken the field since March 1 and the Rebels playmaker looked a tad rusty on his return as the Chiefs clinched a bonus-point triumph.
Beale came off the bench for the final 32 minutes to play at full-back and managed to score a try with five minutes remaining that gave the Rebels an outside chance of pulling off an undeserved victory.
But the Chiefs held on in the final stages, despite a late push from the home side inside their 22 after the final siren that eventually amounted to nothing.
For the majority of the contest it looked like the Chiefs were going to cruise to victory as they dominated possession and made the Rebels pay for the plethora of errors they produced.
The reigning Super Rugby champions led 24-14 at half-time mainly thanks to Anscombe's heroics and were still ahead by 13 when Brodie Retallick charged down a James O'Connor kick with 10 minutes remaining to score.
But the-never-say-die Rebels refused to go away and could have easily pinched the victory at the end if the Chiefs defence had not stepped up and forced a turnover on the final play of the match.
The victory sees the Chiefs increase their lead at the top of the New Zealand conference, while the Rebels pick up a bonus-point and stay second last in the Australian group.
It didn't take long for the Chiefs to assert their authority, with the Waikato-based side scoring two tries in the opening 10 minutes through Anscombe and Bundee Aki to shoot out to a 12-0 lead.
Scott Higginbotham made the initial break and then followed it up by scoring as the Rebels reduced the deficit to five, but a turnover in midfield led to Anscombe getting his second as the Chiefs regained their 12-point buffer.
Anscombe completed his hat-trick in the 26th minute when outside centre Tim Nanai-Williams made a telling break, only for the Rebels to once again fight back through Hugh Pyle.
Pyle had his fellow forwards to thank for doing the hard work, with the lock barging over from close range just after the half hour mark as the Rebels closed to within 10 at half-time.
Beale got a big cheer from the home faithful when he entered the fray shortly after the break, but he could do little to stop a charging Sam Cane crossing over in the 49th minute after a period of dominance from the visitors.
With a 17-point lead and a bonus-point wrapped up, the Chiefs must have thought they had the game won as they turned off and allowed the Rebels a period of dominance midway through the second half.
The Chiefs defence held out momentarily, but Pyle and Phipps scored tries either side of an Anscombe penalty goal as the Rebels moved to within eight (34-26) with 12 minutes remaining.
Retallick charged down an O'Connor kick to score moments later to give the Chiefs some breathing space, before Beale finished off a lovely move with five minutes remaining to give the home side an outside chance.
But the Chiefs held firm in the final moments of an enthralling contest to clinch their seventh triumph of the season.