Chiefs hold off Crusaders charge
An outstanding defensive display by the Chiefs gave them a 20-17 Super Rugby semi-final win over the Crusaders at Hamilton's Waikato Stadium.
The Chiefs defence held firm as the Crusaders went through 22 phases late on but were unable to find a gap or put fly-half Dan Carter in a position for the drop goal which would have forced extra-time.
It was classic finals rugby with desperate defence from both sides, rugged forward exchanges and few significant line breaks.
The signs were good from the outset for the home team who looked a sharper, more unified, combination than in the previous game between the two sides three weeks ago.
Carter did not have the time or space to call the shots in his usual manner. He landed four penalty goals but missed a chance to tie the game up in the 75th minute with a miss from 45m.
Cruden opened the scoring with a second-minute penalty goal but after that was negated 12 minutes later by Carter, Cruden missed two chances, one of them from 55m.
Sonny Bill Williams was lethal on the line breaks during the first half and was also a handful in the second with powerful running. One early quick transfer outside to Cruden saw a linking pass to allow half-back Tawera Kerr-Barlow up towards the line. The Chiefs pack then arrived en masse and it was Sona Taumalolo who burrowed across for his ninth try of the season in his 50th Super Rugby game.
Carter pulled the Crusaders back to 10-6 with a 31st-minute penalty goal after Ben Tameifuna was ruled to have collapsed the scrum. But the Chiefs moved ahead 17-6 after the restart as Williams put Liam Messam through, before Ryan Crotty responded when he found a gap to leave the scores at 17-11 at half-time.
Carter pulled the margin back to three 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 Aaron Cruden goaled to take the score to 20-14.
Carter pulled three points back but could not level the match as the Chiefs held out to set up a final against the winners of Saturday's game between the Stormers and the Sharks.