The Chiefs celebrated their return to their Waikato Stadium fortress with a scrappy 22-16 win over the Melbourne Rebels in Hamilton on Saturday to maintain their lead over the New Zealand conference in Super Rugby.

Coming off a tough tour of Australia and South Africa, the double-defending champions stormed out of the gates to take a 19-0 lead by the 24th minute but were dragged into an attritional second half by the Rebels' hard-working forwards and the boot of flyhalf Jason Woodward.

Woodward's third penalty put the Rebels within a converted try with 64 minutes to play but the visitors repeatedly coughed up possession in the final minutes with a series of handling errors to surrender the match.

Replacing injured flyhalf and co-captain Aaron Cruden, Gareth Anscombe tallied 17 points for the Chiefs and helped set up the home side's sole try to lock Michael Fitzgerald in the 14th minute with a line-break. Japanese hooker Shota Horie grabbed the Rebels' only try three minutes after halftime. – Reuters