The Chiefs held on to beat the Crusaders 20-17 in an all-New Zealand Super Rugby semifinal last night to reach the championship match for the second time.
The Chiefs repelled the seven-time champion Crusaders for 22 phases at the end of the game at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton to get the win after leading 17-11 at half time. All Blacks fly-half Dan Carter missed a penalty with four minutes remaining that would have tied it at 20-20.
The Chiefs will take on South Africa’s Stormers or Sharks on Aug. 4 as they seek a first southern hemisphere provincial rugby title. The Stormers host the other semifinal today in Cape Town and also would have home advantage should they reach the final, having earned the top seeding in the playoffs by topping the regular-season standings ahead of the Chiefs.
“We’ll watch with interest and whatever happens, we’re up for it,” Chiefs captain Craig Clarke said in a televised interview. “We can’t really do too much about it.”
If the sixth-placed Sharks advance to their fourth final, the Chiefs will host the title decider.
Chiefs fly-half Aaron Cruden, Carter’s backup in New Zealand’s top-ranked national team, traded penalties with the Crusaders playmaker in the first 15 minutes before Chiefs prop Sona Taumalolo was awarded a try by the television match official in the 27th minute.
The prop was ruled to have landed the ball on the line for his ninth try of the season and Cruden converted to make it 10-3, taking him above Bulls fly-half Morne Steyn atop the points-scoring list this season.
Carter booted a 32nd-minute penalty to make it 10-6 before flanker Liam Messam finished off a counterattack to put the Chiefs 11 points ahead with a converted try. Crusaders inside center Ryan Crotty burst over on the stroke of half time to make it 17-11 at the break.
Carter booted two penalties either side of a Cruden kick to make it 20-17 with 18 minutes remaining. Cruden hit the underside of the crossbar with a 55-meter effort before Carter’s kick fell just short.
Although Crusaders got the ball back and tried to work it through the forwards to get closer to the posts for a drop goal attempt or penalty, the Chiefs defense and discipline held firm.
“We were just aiming to get three points there to be honest,” Crusaders captain Richie McCaw said in a televised interview. “They were up for it and we didn’t really have the answer so it’s a bit disappointing.”