Chiefs power into second straight final

03:55, Jul 28 2013
Chiefs v Highlanders
Liam Messam tries to avoid the tackle of Ma'a Nonu during his side's opening round win over the Highlanders.
Chiefs v Highlanders
Patrick Osborne dives over for a try against the Highlanders.
Chiefs v Highlanders
Tawera Kerr-Barlow clears the ball during the Chiefs' win over the Highlanders.
Chiefs v Highlanders
Gareth Anscombe gets caught in a tackle on his Chiefs debut against the Highlanders.
Gareth Anscombe
Gareth Anscombe goes over to score for the Chiefs against the Cheetahs.
Tim Nanai-Williams
Tim Nanai-Williams tries to evade a tackler.
Liam Messam
Liam Messam on the charge.
Brodie Retallick
Brodie Retallick gets an offload away.
Chiefs
Stormers wing Bryan Habana is tackled during the Super Rugby match between DHL Stormers and the Chiefs.
Sam Cane gallery
Sam Cane charges headlong into the Stormers' defence.
Tanerau Latimer
Tanerau Latimer looks to spread the ball wide.
Liam Messam
Liam Messam charges ahead for the Chiefs.
Chiefs v Kings
Andrew Horrell makes a break for the Chiefs during their bonus point win over the Southern Kings.
Chiefs v Kings
Lelia Masaga makes a run during his triple-try scoring effort against the Kings.
Chiefs v Kings
Hika Elliot in action against the Southern Kings.
Chiefs v Kings
Liam Messam gets his side fired up during his 100th Super Rugby game for the Chiefs against the Southern Kings.
Chiefs v Highlanders
Liam Messam receives a greenstone mere from former Chiefs coach Ian Foster during a special presentation to celebrate his 100th game for the Chiefs.
Chiefs v Highlanders
Liam Messam fans show some love for the Chiefs co-captain's 100th game celebrations.
Chiefs v Highlanders
Richard Kahui makes a break in his return for the Chiefs during their win over the Highlanders.
Chiefs v Highlanders
Aaron Cruden fends off Highlanders counterpart Colin Slade.
Chiefs v Highlanders
Tim Nanai-Williams is congratulated after scoring the Chiefs' only try in their win over the Highlanders.
Chiefs v Highlanders
Andrew Horrell comes up just short in his dive for the try line.
Chiefs 2013 Season
Michael Fitzgerald of the Chiefs charges forward during the round seven Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Blues at Bay Park.
Chiefs 2013 Season
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.
Chiefs 2013 Season
Aaron Cruden with the ball during the round seven Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Blues at Bay Park.
Chiefs 2013 Season
Richard Kahui on the charge during the round seven Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Blues at Bay Park.
Quade Cooper
The Reds' Quade Cooper is tackled by the Chiefs' Aaron Cruden during their clash in Hamilton.
Bundee Aki
Chief Bundee Aki goes over to score a try against the Reds in Hamilton.
Chiefs gallery
Gareth Anscombe streaks away from the Waratahs defence.
Chiefs gallery
Sitaleki Timani receives a yellow card.
Chiefs gallery
Aaron Cruden spins it wide against the Waratahs.
Chiefs gallery
The Chiefs huddle under the posts after conceding a try to the Waratahs.
Chiefs v Sharks
Bundee Aki dives over for a try during the Chiefs win over the Sharks at Waikato Stadium.
Chiefs v Sharks
Asaeli Tikoirotuma attempts to break through a Sharks tackle.
Chiefs v Sharks
Ben Tameifuna on the charge against the Sharks.
Chiefs v Sharks
Liam Messam helps carry the load against the Sharks in Hamilton.
Chiefs
Gareth Anscombe goes in to score against the Melbourne Rebels.
Chiefs
Sam Cane (second from left) is congratulated by team-mates after scoring against the Melbourne Rebels.
Chiefs
Brendon Leonard (right) takes on his opposite number Nick Phipps of the Melbourne Rebels.
Chiefs
Bundee Aki celebrates after scoring a try against the Melbourne Rebels.
Chiefs season 2013
Robbie Robinson of the Chiefs competes for a high ball against Kyle Godwin of the Force.
Chiefs season 2013
Ben McCalman of the Force is tackled by Matt Vant Leven during their Round 13 Super Rugby clash.
Chiefs season 2013
Brett Sheehan watches the Force and Chiefs packs contest a scrum.
Chiefs 2013 gallery
Tawera Kerr-Barlow spins it wide against the Hurricanes.
Chiefs 2013 gallery
Liam Messam charges into the gap for the Chiefs against the Hurricanes.
Chiefs 2013 gallery
Prop Ben Afeaki charges into the open for the Chiefs.
Chiefs 2013 gallery
Aaron Cruden gets a kick away under pressure from Hurricanes lock Ben May.
Chiefs gallery
Aaron Cruden goes in to score the opening try against the Crusaders.
Chiefs gallery
Tanerau Latimer (left) and Tawera Kerr-Barlow wrap up George Whitelock of the Crusaders.
Chiefs gallery
Robbie Robinson in action against the Crusaders.
Chiefs gallery
Liam Messam charges ahead against the Crusaders.
Chiefs gallery 2013
A see of Chiefs flags welcomes the NZ conference leaders ahead of their game against the Hurricanes.
Chiefs gallery 2013
Matt Vant Leven climbs high to win a lineout against the Hurricanes.
Chiefs gallery 2013
Tim Nanai-Williams attempts to bust through the Hurricanes defence.
Chiefs gallery 2013
Lelia Masaga makes a break against the Hurricanes, with Matt Vant Leven in support.
Chiefs 2013
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.
Chiefs 2013
Aseli Tikoirotuma of the Chiefs runs with the ball during the round 19 Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Chiefs.
Chiefs 2013
Aseli Tikoirotuma of the Chiefs celebrates his try with Ben Tameifuna during the round 19 Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Chiefs.
Chiefs 2013
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.
Chiefs v Blues
Andrew Horrell in action for the Chiefs in their regular season finale win over the Blues.
Chiefs v Blues
Ben Tameifuna on the charge for the Chiefs.
Chiefs v Blues
Bundee Aki scores at full stretch against the Blues.
Chiefs v Blues
Aaron Cruden converts a try during the Chiefs' win over the Blues.
Chiefs vs Crusaders
Liam Messam takes on the Crusaders defence.
Chiefs vs Crusaders
Lelia Masaga has a cut at the Crusaders defence.
Chiefs vs Crusaders
Asaeli Tikoirotuma is downed by Owen Franks.
Chiefs vs Crusaders
Fans in full voice as the Chiefs take on the Crusaders.

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.

Richard Kahui
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.

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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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