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July 29, 2012

Chiefs down Crusaders to qualify for their second Super Rugby Final

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Chiefs down Crusaders to qualify for their second Super Rugby Final

By SANZAR News Service and chiefs.co.nz

The Chiefs are now one game away from Super Rugby supermacy after tightly contested 20-17 victory over the seven time champion Crusaders at a sold out Waikato Stadium over the weekend.

In their third meeting this season and with a trip to the finals at stake both sides clearly put everything on the line in this bruising match up.

The home side were given an early opportunity to attack and it was first five Aaron Cruden who calmly slotted the penalty after the Crusaders were thought to have infringed at the breakdown.

It was evident through the opening minutes the intensity was at a different level and tension was high between both sides as a couple of scuffles broke out between the players.

The Crusaders were soon able to camp down in Chiefs territory and enjoyed their fair share of possession, first five Dan Carter was able to draw level with a penalty

The atmosphere at Waikato Stadium was electric when veteran Liam Messam showed exceptional footwork to split the defence then link up with Sonny Bill Williams as the attacking movement came to no avail

The hosts could have been a touch fortunate as Williams busted through once more before a dubious offload to Cruden would put them hot on attack.

From there the New Zealand Conference winners were able to apply pressure as fan favourite Sona Taumalolo rumbled his way over for his ninth try of the season before TMO Garrett Williamson made it official.

Another Carter penalty soon after would peg the margin back but it was the Chiefs who seemed the more dangerous of the sides.

Minutes before the break, a brilliant counter attacking run by fullback Robbie Robinson found the visitors back peddling.

Another Williams surge from the base of the ruck would provide Messam with a clear run to the line and they extended their lead with Cruden's conversion to make it 17-6.

The Crusaders showed their experience and composure striking right on halftime when midfielder Ryan Crotty powered through to score in the corner. Carter was unable to convert the try as they went to the shed down 17-11.

The All Blacks playmaker Carter would begin second half proceedings with an easy three points after Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna was harshly penalised at the breakdown.

Cruden cancelled the penalty with one of his own, not before tempers flared once more as Tawera Kerr-Barlow had a penalty reversed for ill discipline.

With most of the play occurring between the 22s, no side could deliver the crucial blow highlighting how strong the defensive efforts were by both teams

Carter's fourth penalty of the evening would reduce the margin to three and he would have a shot to level up the scores only for his attempt to fall short.

Handling errors and uncharacterisitc mistakes appeared to hamper the Crusaders efforts down the stretch and was typified when Crotty accidentally bumped into Matt Todd allowing the Chiefs to regroup.

Defence proved to be key in the final minutes and after the full time whistle the Crusaders looked to set up for a drop goal, but the Chiefs continued to send the visitors backwards.

Eventually it was a handling error that ended the game as the Chiefs held off the Crusaders to earn the franchise's second trip to the final.

Coach Dave Rennie thought the Chiefs brought a different level of intensity that was proabaly missing in recent weeks while he praised his side's strong defensive effort.

"You can see from the first whistle there was far more intensity in everything we did. We got a lot of quick ball and put them under a bit of pressure.

"Certainly defensively, there were a lot of guys who made big contributions defensively today so it made a massive difference.

"It's all about attitude in the end."

Loose forward Sam Cane acknowledged the side had addressed the attitude coming into the game that may have been missing the last time the teams met.

For Cane, he'll be hoping the Sharks prevail in Capetown against the Stormers for another opportunity to play in front of the Chiefs fans.

"We'd like the Sharks to get up so we could have a home final here. The crowd has been amazing here and the boys really respond to it.

"So if we could have a home final that would be ideal...It would be awesome to have it here."