Hamilton - The Chiefs booked a place in the Super Rugby final for only
the second time Friday when they hung on for a narrow 20-17 win over the Crusaders in Hamilton.
In a cliffhanger semi-final the
Chiefs held off a late charge by the seasoned Crusaders, who had a
chance to equalise in the 75th minute but saw Dan Carter's 45-metre
penalty drop under the bar.
The Chiefs celebrated the final
whistle as if they had already won the championship, but had to wait for
Saturday's second semi-final between the Stormers
and Sharks to find out their last opponents.
Stormers go through the tournament climax will be in Cape Town, while a
showdown with the Sharks would be played in Hamilton, as home advantage
in the Super 15 playoffs is based on how the teams finished in the
Refreshed from a bye last week while the Crusaders
faced the Bulls, the Chiefs opened at an extreme pace that threw the
seasoned red-and-blacks off their game plan.
Making light of their
inexperience at knockout rugby, the Chiefs forced their opponents off
their stride behind the advantage line, and into uncharacteristic
handling errors, turnovers and missed tackles.
"It's pretty unreal
at the moment, I just have to look at the scoreboard and let it sink in
a little bit," an elated captain Craig Clarke said as he left the
"It wasn't perfect. A couple of scrums went backwards and a
couple of lineouts were overthrown so it certainly wasn't perfect, but
it was good enough."
Even so Crusaders captain Richie McCaw was in no doubt the better team won.
made crucial mistakes and never got our game going which probably comes
down to a good Chiefs team but we probably lacked a bit of composure as
well. You can't win games when you haven't got that.
have set the standard all year, there's no doubt about that. From our
point of view it was disappointing but they probably deserved the win."
Aaron Cruden had the Chiefs in front with a penalty at the end of the
opening passage of play, and while a Carter penalty levelled the score,
the Crusaders were never ahead.
With loose forward Liam Messam at
the head of a hungry pack, the Chiefs' bullying tactics forced the
visitors into bumbling passage of play that resulted in two quick tries.
The first went to Taumalolo when he burrowed over the line in a mass of bodies.
appeared to be an illegal double movement but the television match
official was only asked to rule on whether a try was scored, and not on
any illegalities leading up to the grounding of the ball.
counter-attack from fullback Robbie Robinson then put the Chiefs deep
into Crusaders territory, where Sonny Bill Williams found a gap to send
Messam across the line.
The Crusaders stayed in touch with a second Carter penalty and a Ryan Crotty try on the stroke of halftime.
opening minutes of the second half were dominated by penalties, two to
Carter and one to Cruden to narrow the Chiefs lead to 20-17, but despite
the Crusaders attacking relentlessly they were unable to score again.
the Crusaders' dream of an eighth Super Rugby title was wiped out, the
Chiefs found themselves in the final for only the second time, having
been thrashed 61-17 by the Bulls in South Africa in 2009 in their first