Planet Rugby

Chiefs through to Super Rugby Final

27th July 2012 07:51

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Sonny Bill Williams of the Chiefs celebrates their win against the Crusaders

Into the final: Sonny Bill Williams

The Chiefs booked their place in the Super Rugby Final after edging past the Crusaders 20-17 in a thrilling semi-final clash on Friday.

An excellent advertisement for Super Rugby, this tense match kept you riveted until the very end.

With four minutes of the semi-final remaining, Crusaders pivot Dan Carter had a chance to level the scores with a penalty from 48m out. But his attempt fell agonisingly short and the Chiefs managed to hang on for a deserved win.

Carter's miss summed up the Crusaders night as the visitors' made numerous uncharacteristic mistakes. They weren't as clinical as we'd seen in last week's play-off win over the Bulls, while the Chiefs played to their strengths and took the Crusaders away from theirs.

The refreshed hosts displayed unrelenting urgency and outscored the more fancied Crusaders two tries to one, whilst their defence - put through a rigorous examination in the final minutes - was also rock-solid.

The Chiefs now await the result from Saturday's other semi in Cape Town where the Stormers will be looking to book a home final, while a Sharks win would hand the Chiefs hosting rights in the decider next weekend.

After ending the regular season as the highest-ranked New Zealand side, the Chiefs made home advantage count this time round after losing their previous encounter to the Crusaders a few weeks ago in Hamilton.

Indeed, the signs were promising from the outset for the home team who looked a sharper, more unified, combination than in that Round 17 game.

Slick Chiefs fly-half Aaron Cruden got the scoreboard ticking with an early three-pointer before Carter banked a penalty of his own to level the scores.

The Crusaders then suffered a massive setback after influential lock Luke Romano was forced off the pitch with a shoulder injury in the 14th minute. And there was no doubt the loss of their All Black hurt them badly.

After keeping the ball alive brilliantly through multiple phases, Chiefs prop Sona Taumalolo bagged the opening try courtesy of yet another controversial call from the TMO. Cruden added the extras, and the Chiefs were looking good at 10-3 after 26 minutes played.

Carter pulled the Crusaders back to 10-6 with a 31st-minute penalty goal after Ben Tameifuna was ruled to have collapsed the scrum.

The home side's dominance though continued from the restart, thanks to a break-out and offload by standout centre Sonny Bill Williams with Liam Messam on hand to dot down for a sensational converted score that extended the Chiefs' lead to eleven points.

However, the Crusaders hit back on the stroke of half-time when Ryan Crotty slid over to narrow the gap. Carter failed to add the extras, but the visitors were back in the hunt at half-time (17-11).

Carter pulled the margin back to a three-point deficit four minutes into the second half, but the Crusaders then saw a rare error from their ace when a penalty kick rolled over the dead-ball line. In resulting play back at halfway the Crusaders conceded a scrum penalty through prop Wyatt Crockett and Cruden goaled to take the score to 20-14.

Though the Chiefs weren't out of the woods yet as Carter slotted over another three points in the 62nd minute, and with a quarter of the match remaining, it was anyone's for the taking.

Carter then missed a chance to send the game into extra time with his stray long-range penalty and a capacity crowd of 25,000 heaved a huge sigh of relief.

Man of the match: The Chiefs pack stood strong in some brutal exchanges, with Sona Taumalolo and Liam Messam getting through a mountain of work. But it's a toss up between Aaron Cruden and Sonny Bill Williams, after both blitzed the Crusaders defence with scintillating breaks on multiple occasions. Cruden showed once more that he is fast evolving into a fly-half of the absolute highest quality, while Williams showed what a loss he will be to New Zealand rugby. Heck, they can share it!

Moment of the match: Messam's try was out the top drawer, but we felt Carter's 76th-minute missed penalty attempt was the moment in the match that had Chiefs and Crusaders' fans with their hearts in their throats.

Villain of the match: Tempers flared, naturally. Usually that means a little pushing and shoving... but no red or yellow cards were shown as a result. Only a white!

For Chiefs:
Tries: Taumalolo, Messam
Cons: Cruden 2
Pens: Cruden 2

For Crusaders:
Try: Crotty
Pens: Carter 4

Chiefs: 15 Robbie Robinson, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Andrew Horrell, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Kane Thompson, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke (c), 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Sona Taumalolo.
Replacements: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Ben Afeaki, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Brendon Leonard, 21 Jackson Willison, 22 Lelia Masaga.

Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Adam Whitelock, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Richie McCaw (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Owen Franks, 18 Tom Donnelly, 19 Luke Whitelock, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Tom Taylor, 22 Sean Maitland.

Referee: Craig Joubert

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