A four-try first-half performance helped the Chiefs see off the Rebels 36-15 in a bonus-point Super Rugby triumph in Hamilton on Saturday.
It was definitely a game of two halves as the New Zealanders were 26-3 in front at the break before their quality dipped after the break.
Seta Tamanivalu, Nathan Harris, Toni Pulu and Aaron Cruden got them moving before Andrew Horrell added a fifth score in the second period.
The Rebels' try-scorers were Mike Harris and Reece Hodge but the visitors were never really in the contest as their slump in form continues.
The Chiefs, in contrast, looked fired up after their recent loss to the Highlanders and came out with purpose, scoring inside four minutes through centre Tamanivalu. His try came from an overcooked clearing kick from Rebels scrum-half Nic Stirzaker as he cut back inside with a good angle from the resulting ball ten metres out. It was the perfect start for the host as Cruden slotted the conversion to give them a hand 7-0 cushion.
Rebels full-back Harris did respond for his side eight minutes later via the tee after Sam Cane was penalised at a ruck but the Chiefs were not contained for long as Cruden's smart grubber kick into the left corner found hooker Harris for a score on his return. It was now 12-3.
There was an opportunity for Harris to land his second penalty of the game on 17 minutes when Chiefs number eight Michael Leitch collided with him in the air, but the Rebel hit the post from 30 metres out. One sensed the Chiefs were going to punish any missed chances.
So it proved as scrum-half Brad Weber's lovely pull-back pass for Pulu sent the wing over near to the posts and when Cruden scored a try of his own on 30 minutes, the bonus point was firmly on the board. The Rebels had barely enjoyed any scoring opportunities at that point.
That changed with two minutes of the half remaining and the Rebels will count themselves unlucky to have been denied by the officials, fly-half Jack Debreczeni's quick pass out to Tom English being adjudged forward. It was a surprising call as his hands looked to go backwards.
The Rebels were not to be denied six minutes into the second period though as sustained pressure in the Chiefs 22 led to Harris running a hard line to get them on the board. The Chiefs still had their try bonus-point intact, but the Rebels had closed the scoreline to 26-10.
Replacement prop Siegfried Fisi’ihoi almost hit back for the Chiefs but he was denied a rare try due to the James Lowe having put a foot in touch earlier in the play. That unfortunately for the spectacle was the only moment of interest in the third quarter as the tempo dipped.
Unsurprisingly that led to the Chiefs keeping a lid on their game-plan as Cruden slotted a penalty but it would be the Rebels with the final say as replacement Hodge finished off a try in the left corner to make it 36-15.
Tries: Tamanivalu, Harris, Pulu, Cruden, Horrell
Cons: Cruden 3, McKenzie
Tries: Harris, Hodge
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Seta Tamanivalu, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (c), 9 Bred Weber, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane (c), 6 Taleni Seu, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Hiroshi Yamashita, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Mitchell Graham
Replacements: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Kane Hames, 18 Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, 19 Michael Allardice, 20 Tom Sanders, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Andrew Horrell, 23 Sam Vaka
Rebels: 15 Mike Harris, 14 Sefa Naivalu, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Tom English 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Nic Stirzaker (c), 8 Adam Thomson, 7 Sean McMahon, 6 Colby Fainga’a, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Sam Jeffries, 3 Jamie Hagan, 2 James Hanson, 1 Toby Smith
Replacements: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Cruze Ah Nau, 18 Tim Metcher, 19 Culum Retallick, 20 Jordy Reid, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Jonah Placid, 23 Kotaro Matsushima
Referee: Angus Gardiner
Assistant Referees: Brendon Pickerill, Angus Mabey
TMO: Ben Skeen