Chiefs win titanic battle to make Super final

10:58, Jul 27 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.

The Chiefs will host their second Super Rugby final in as many years after somehow managing to turn the tables on the Crusaders in tonight's semifinal in Hamilton.

Willed on by a crowd of about 22,000, the home side were on the back foot early in the second half, trailing 9-3 at halftime, only to score the next 17 points, including the first two tries of the match.

Having finished the regular season top of the table, the Chiefs now have the luxury of  waiting at home in Hamilton for either the Bulls or Brumbies to travel from South Africa for the final, just as the Sharks had to do last year. 

The Crusaders' lineout proved a real weapon in the first spell, stealing  four of the Chiefs' throw-ins and losing just one of their own, and their scrum provided a solid platform.

But their points all came from the boot of Dan Carter, who kicked three out of four penalty shots at goal as the home side's discipline let them down in key defensive situations.

And the Chiefs' error rate was just too high for them to ram home some promising early attacks, while the bounce of the ball evaded fullback Gareth Anscombe when a chargedown promised to deliver a try.

The home side resorted to a disappointing early kicking game in the second quarter that was nowhere near as effective as their ball carrying and wide attacking tactics had been earlier on.

That followed one of the Crusaders' best scoring chances, albeit from long range, when Tom Taylor broke out of his own 22 and put All Blacks fullback Israel Dagg into space. It took a clever piece of defence from Chiefs centre Charlie Ngatai to intercept as Dagg tried to put winger Tom Marshall away down the right flank.

The Crusaders' three penalty goals all came within an eight-minute period through the middle of the half and Aaron Cruden's sole three-pointer also came during that time.

Carter had a crack at a dropped goal after the halftime hooter after a long and patient  buildup but he hit it poorly and it skimmed away low and to the right.

The Chiefs dodged a bullet a couple of minutes after the break when, under penalty  advantage, prop Wyatt Crockett picked and went through the middle of ruck and put skipper Kieran Read away only for defending winger Asaeli Tikoirotuma to knock the ball up in the air and regather.

To add insult to the Crusaders' injury Carter hit an upright with his kick at goal and Cruden made no mistake with one of his own a minute later to make it 9-6.

That seemed to lift the home side and skipper Craig Clarke sparked a counterattack, the Crusaders were pinned back in their own corner, a penalty kick at goal was turned down in favour of a lineout and winger Lelia Masaga produced a piece of individual magic, smashing through George Whitelock and two other defenders to score handy to the posts.

The Cruden conversion for a 13-9 lead to the Chiefs was a formality but there was no time to reflect on that as the Crusaders immediately launched a dangerous attack, only to see it founder after immense home defence.

As if that wasn't enough of a dagger blow to the TAB favourites, big defence by the Chiefs forced a passing error by the visitors and Cruden snatched the intercept and raced 40m to score by the posts and convert.

At 20-9 the Chiefs suddenly had the upper hand, but a piece of superb pace and swerve from Dagg to score in the corner two minutes later ensured the Crusaders stayed in the hunt and Carter converted from wide out to narrow the gap to 20-16.

Cruden had the chance to put the lead out to seven points with 10 minutes to play but his 34m kick from by the touchline just sailed wide of the righthand upright.

Carter didn't make the same mistake four minutes later when replacement halfback August Pulu conceded a foolish penalty to close it to 20-19 and Cruden's restart didn't go 10m.

That meant field position again for the visitors and Carter had an early crack at a dropped goal from a lineout but it went wide and the Chiefs' defence again proved the key at the end.

 

Chiefs 20 (Lelia Masaga, Aaron Cruden tries; Aaron Cruden 2 conversions, 2 penalty goals) Crusaders 19 (Israel Dagg try; Dan Carter conversion, 4 penalty goals). Halftime 9-3.

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