Chiefs power into second straight final

Liam Messam takes on the Crusaders defence.
Liam Messam takes on the Crusaders defence.
Lelia Masaga has a cut at the Crusaders defence.
Lelia Masaga has a cut at the Crusaders defence.
Asaeli Tikoirotuma is downed by Owen Franks.
Asaeli Tikoirotuma is downed by Owen Franks.
Fans in full voice as the Chiefs take on the Crusaders.
Fans in full voice as the Chiefs take on the Crusaders.
Andrew Horrell in action for the Chiefs in their regular season finale win over the Blues.
Andrew Horrell in action for the Chiefs in their regular season finale win over the Blues.
Ben Tameifuna on the charge for the Chiefs.
Ben Tameifuna on the charge for the Chiefs.
Bundee Aki scores at full stretch against the Blues.
Bundee Aki scores at full stretch against the Blues.
Aaron Cruden converts a try during the Chiefs' win over the Blues.
Aaron Cruden converts a try during the Chiefs' win over the Blues.
Ross Filipo of the Chiefs tackles Dan Carter of the Crusaders after a kick in the Crusaders in goal during the round 19 Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Chiefs.
Ross Filipo of the Chiefs tackles Dan Carter of the Crusaders after a kick in the Crusaders in goal during the round 19 Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Chiefs.
Aseli Tikoirotuma of the Chiefs celebrates his try with Ben Tameifuna during the round 19 Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Chiefs.
Aseli Tikoirotuma of the Chiefs celebrates his try with Ben Tameifuna during the round 19 Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Chiefs.
Aseli Tikoirotuma of the Chiefs runs with the ball during the round 19 Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Chiefs.
Aseli Tikoirotuma of the Chiefs runs with the ball during the round 19 Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Chiefs.
Aaron Cruden of the Chiefs runs with the ball into defender Tom Marshall of the Crusaders during the round 19 Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Chiefs.
Aaron Cruden of the Chiefs runs with the ball into defender Tom Marshall of the Crusaders during the round 19 Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Chiefs.
Lelia Masaga makes a break against the Hurricanes, with Matt Vant Leven in support.
Lelia Masaga makes a break against the Hurricanes, with Matt Vant Leven in support.
Tim Nanai-Williams attempts to bust through the Hurricanes defence.
Tim Nanai-Williams attempts to bust through the Hurricanes defence.
Matt Vant Leven climbs high to win a lineout against the Hurricanes.
Matt Vant Leven climbs high to win a lineout against the Hurricanes.
A see of Chiefs flags welcomes the NZ conference leaders ahead of their game against the Hurricanes.
A see of Chiefs flags welcomes the NZ conference leaders ahead of their game against the Hurricanes.
Liam Messam charges ahead against the Crusaders.
Liam Messam charges ahead against the Crusaders.
Aaron Cruden goes in to score the opening try against the Crusaders.
Aaron Cruden goes in to score the opening try against the Crusaders.
Tanerau Latimer (left) and Tawera Kerr-Barlow wrap up George Whitelock of the Crusaders.
Tanerau Latimer (left) and Tawera Kerr-Barlow wrap up George Whitelock of the Crusaders.
Robbie Robinson in action against the Crusaders.
Robbie Robinson in action against the Crusaders.
Liam Messam charges into the gap for the Chiefs against the Hurricanes.
Liam Messam charges into the gap for the Chiefs against the Hurricanes.
Aaron Cruden gets a kick away under pressure from Hurricanes lock Ben May.
Aaron Cruden gets a kick away under pressure from Hurricanes lock Ben May.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow spins it wide against the Hurricanes.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow spins it wide against the Hurricanes.
Prop Ben Afeaki charges into the open for the Chiefs.
Prop Ben Afeaki charges into the open for the Chiefs.
Robbie Robinson of the Chiefs competes for a high ball against Kyle Godwin of the Force.
Robbie Robinson of the Chiefs competes for a high ball against Kyle Godwin of the Force.
Brett Sheehan watches the Force and Chiefs packs contest a scrum.
Brett Sheehan watches the Force and Chiefs packs contest a scrum.
Ben McCalman of the Force is tackled by Matt Vant Leven during their Round 13 Super Rugby clash.
Ben McCalman of the Force is tackled by Matt Vant Leven during their Round 13 Super Rugby clash.
Bundee Aki celebrates after scoring a try against the Melbourne Rebels.
Bundee Aki celebrates after scoring a try against the Melbourne Rebels.
Sam Cane (second from left) is congratulated by team-mates after scoring against the Melbourne Rebels.
Sam Cane (second from left) is congratulated by team-mates after scoring against the Melbourne Rebels.
Gareth Anscombe goes in to score against the Melbourne Rebels.
Gareth Anscombe goes in to score against the Melbourne Rebels.
Brendon Leonard (right) takes on his opposite number Nick Phipps of the Melbourne Rebels.
Brendon Leonard (right) takes on his opposite number Nick Phipps of the Melbourne Rebels.
Bundee Aki dives over for a try during the Chiefs win over the Sharks at Waikato Stadium.
Bundee Aki dives over for a try during the Chiefs win over the Sharks at Waikato Stadium.
Asaeli Tikoirotuma attempts to break through a Sharks tackle.
Asaeli Tikoirotuma attempts to break through a Sharks tackle.
Liam Messam helps carry the load against the Sharks in Hamilton.
Liam Messam helps carry the load against the Sharks in Hamilton.
Ben Tameifuna on the charge against the Sharks.
Ben Tameifuna on the charge against the Sharks.
Aaron Cruden spins it wide against the Waratahs.
Aaron Cruden spins it wide against the Waratahs.
Gareth Anscombe streaks away from the Waratahs defence.
Gareth Anscombe streaks away from the Waratahs defence.
Sitaleki Timani receives a yellow card.
Sitaleki Timani receives a yellow card.
The Chiefs huddle under the posts after conceding a try to the Waratahs.
The Chiefs huddle under the posts after conceding a try to the Waratahs.
The Reds' Quade Cooper is tackled by the Chiefs' Aaron Cruden during their clash in Hamilton.
The Reds' Quade Cooper is tackled by the Chiefs' Aaron Cruden during their clash in Hamilton.
Chief Bundee Aki goes over to score a try against the Reds in Hamilton.
Chief Bundee Aki goes over to score a try against the Reds in Hamilton.
Richard Kahui of the Chiefs dives over to score a try during the round seven Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Blues at Bay Park.
Richard Kahui of the Chiefs dives over to score a try during the round seven Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Blues at Bay Park.
Michael Fitzgerald of the Chiefs charges forward during the round seven Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Blues at Bay Park.
Michael Fitzgerald of the Chiefs charges forward during the round seven Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Blues at Bay Park.
Aaron Cruden with the ball during the round seven Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Blues at Bay Park.
Aaron Cruden with the ball during the round seven Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Blues at Bay Park.
Richard Kahui on the charge during the round seven Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Blues at Bay Park.
Richard Kahui on the charge during the round seven Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Blues at Bay Park.
Liam Messam receives a greenstone mere from former Chiefs coach Ian Foster during a special presentation to celebrate his 100th game for the Chiefs.
Liam Messam receives a greenstone mere from former Chiefs coach Ian Foster during a special presentation to celebrate his 100th game for the Chiefs.
Andrew Horrell comes up just short in his dive for the try line.
Andrew Horrell comes up just short in his dive for the try line.
Tim Nanai-Williams is congratulated after scoring the Chiefs' only try in their win over the Highlanders.
Tim Nanai-Williams is congratulated after scoring the Chiefs' only try in their win over the Highlanders.
Richard Kahui makes a break in his return for the Chiefs during their win over the Highlanders.
Richard Kahui makes a break in his return for the Chiefs during their win over the Highlanders.
Liam Messam fans show some love for the Chiefs co-captain's 100th game celebrations.
Liam Messam fans show some love for the Chiefs co-captain's 100th game celebrations.
Aaron Cruden fends off Highlanders counterpart Colin Slade.
Aaron Cruden fends off Highlanders counterpart Colin Slade.
Liam Messam gets his side fired up during his 100th Super Rugby game for the Chiefs against the Southern Kings.
Liam Messam gets his side fired up during his 100th Super Rugby game for the Chiefs against the Southern Kings.
Lelia Masaga makes a run during his triple-try scoring effort against the Kings.
Lelia Masaga makes a run during his triple-try scoring effort against the Kings.
Andrew Horrell makes a break for the Chiefs during their bonus point win over the Southern Kings.
Andrew Horrell makes a break for the Chiefs during their bonus point win over the Southern Kings.
Hika Elliot in action against the Southern Kings.
Hika Elliot in action against the Southern Kings.
Liam Messam charges ahead for the Chiefs.
Liam Messam charges ahead for the Chiefs.
Tanerau Latimer looks to spread the ball wide.
Tanerau Latimer looks to spread the ball wide.
Sam Cane charges headlong into the Stormers' defence.
Sam Cane charges headlong into the Stormers' defence.
Stormers wing Bryan Habana is tackled during the Super Rugby match between DHL Stormers and the Chiefs.
Stormers wing Bryan Habana is tackled during the Super Rugby match between DHL Stormers and the Chiefs.
Brodie Retallick gets an offload away.
Brodie Retallick gets an offload away.
Liam Messam on the charge.
Liam Messam on the charge.
Tim Nanai-Williams tries to evade a tackler.
Tim Nanai-Williams tries to evade a tackler.
Gareth Anscombe goes over to score for the Chiefs against the Cheetahs.
Gareth Anscombe goes over to score for the Chiefs against the Cheetahs.
Liam Messam tries to avoid the tackle of Ma'a Nonu during his side's opening round win over the Highlanders.
Liam Messam tries to avoid the tackle of Ma'a Nonu during his side's opening round win over the Highlanders.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow clears the ball during the Chiefs' win over the Highlanders.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow clears the ball during the Chiefs' win over the Highlanders.
Gareth Anscombe gets caught in a tackle on his Chiefs debut against the Highlanders.
Gareth Anscombe gets caught in a tackle on his Chiefs debut against the Highlanders.
Patrick Osborne dives over for a try against the Highlanders.
Patrick Osborne dives over for a try against the Highlanders.

Tenacity, sheer determination and a vital intercept try by Aaron Cruden booked the Chiefs a place in the Super Rugby final after they beat the Crusaders at Waikato Stadium last night.

In a pulsating semifinal, the Chiefs withstood a late comeback from the seven-time champions who were unable to capitalise on a 9-3 lead and once again choked against the New Zealand conference winners.

Crusaders first five-eighth Dan Carter had the chance to put his side into the lead with three minutes left when he snapped off a drop goal from a handy position but pushed it wide.

BIG RELIEF: Injured Richard Kahui hugs Chiefs team-mates Andrew Horrell and Robbie Robinson after their 20-19 Super Rugby semifinal victory over the Crusaders.
BIG RELIEF: Injured Richard Kahui hugs Chiefs team-mates Andrew Horrell and Robbie Robinson after their 20-19 Super Rugby semifinal victory over the Crusaders.

Now the Chiefs will host the final next weekend against the Brumbies, who beat the Bulls in Pretoria.

Chiefs right wing Lelia Masaga is known as a deadly finisher capable of twisting on a dime but it was his brute strength and determination during an 18m run that enabled him to surge through George Whitelock's tackle for the first try of the evening and put his side ahead in the 51st minute.

Cruden's conversion - he scored 15 of his side's points and slotted four of his kicks - pushed their side ahead 13-9 and they were never headed.

The Manawatu No 10 - it should be no surprise he was recently voted the Chiefs player of the year by his coaches - again proved why All Blacks fans are blessed to have him as Carter's understudy when he intercepted Ryan Crotty's pass after he had turned his pass to make the delivery.

Cruden's conversion ensured the Chiefs had scored 17 unanswered points and a 20-9 lead, forcing the Crusaders to chase the game.

The Crusaders' reply was immediate. Fullback Israel Dagg skinned three men to cross over in the corner and Carter's conversion closed the gap to just four points and what followed was what finals football is all about.

Eventually Cruden was given a chance to push his side further ahead with a penalty and missed - but Carter didn't fail with his chance to bang over a penalty to close the gap to just one point.

As softening-up periods go, there was nothing subtle about the opening 20 minutes. Although no tries were scored - the Crusaders led by two Carter penalties to Cruden's one - the two opponents kept the 24,000 fans on edge as they repeatedly banged bodies.

Chiefs lock Brodie Retallick slammed Corey Flynn off his feet with one spectacular ruck clean-out to create a turnover and later Masaga dropped his shoulder and crudely rumbled over Crotty when he steamed upfield on attack.

Yes, those sorts of collisions look great in the highlights packages, but the major issue for the Chiefs was that little was gained.

The Chiefs biggest problem was their mounting error rate in the first half; Hika Elliot was one of the easiest culprits to identify in the lineup of offenders.

When things are going wrong, life for a hooker - much like a goalie in football - can be one of the loneliest jobs in the world.

Within 30 minutes the Chiefs had lost five of their own lineouts and although the blame could also probably be apportioned to the lifters and jumpers, it was Elliot - guilty of either throwing them in wonky or too long - who copped the fans' wrath.

The turnover count was also a worrying statistic for the Chiefs as they went into the sheds at halftime. Up to 12 possessions, compared to the Crusaders seven, had been lost because of their careless lineout work, handling errors and when their scrum was decimated.

For all the Chiefs' early enterprise, they maintained possession and repeatedly questioned the Crusaders' scrambling defence; the hosts gained little interest on that investment and then opted to switch to kick more often for the remainder of the first half.

The Crusaders used Carter's boot to keep them ahead 9-3 at the break.

The playmaker kicked three of his four penalties and could have nudged the Crusaders further ahead had he not produced a worm-burner for a drop goal attempt on the stroke of halftime.

SNAPSHOT

STAR MAN: Aaron Cruden. He did everything coach Dave Rennie expected of him and although he missed a late penalty and duffed a vital restart in the final minutes he proved why he is so highly rated in Chiefs country and in the Manawatu too

BIG MOMENT: Cruden's intercept try in the second half changed the momentum and forced the Crusaders to chase the game. They never recovered from having to fight back from being 20-9 down

TALKING POINT: Steve Walsh's refereeing is always controversial and last night was no different. At one stage he told Kieran Read: "Be very careful of where you are or what you're doing." No wonder Read was puzzled

Chiefs 20 (Lelia Masaga, Aaron Cruden tries; Aaron Cruden 2 con, 2 pen) Crusaders 19 (Israel Dagg try; Dan Carter con, 4 pen). HT: 3-9

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