Chiefs sneak into the Final
Fri, 27 Jul 2012 09:34
The Chiefs will make their second appearance in a Final ... the previous having been in 2009
The Chiefs held off a strong second-half surge by the Crusaders to advance to a Super Rugby Final for the second time
Outscoring the seven-time champion Crusaders by two tries to one, the Chiefs recorded a 20-17 win in an enthralling encounter in Hamilton on Friday.
The Chiefs will now wait for Saturday's encounter between the Stormers and Sharks in Cape Town to see who they meet in the Final next week and where.
Have 80 minutes ever been faster? This was enthralling from start to that ending 82 playing minutes later with a knock-on after 21 desperate phases.
It was a match of great intensity and courage - no place for the frightened or nervous. And it was in the end victory to the bolder side, the more intense side, the team that kept running forward with energy and commitment.
The Chiefs' defence was magnificent. They chased every kick at speed and it did not matter that they were playing against players with world-class skills, that they were wrong-footed, that they were off balance.
It did not matter as they flew into tackles and a player of the skill of Israel Dagg who has made a monkey of so many defences was unable to beat a single Chief. Zac Guildford and his swerving speed counted for nothing and the same is true of bustling Robbie Fruean.
Tackling certainly counted. By half-time the Crusaders had missed 15 tackles to the three of the Chiefs. Tackling counted most in the match.
Tackling and handling, for the Crusaders dropped many a ball and got in each other's way.
They also made three times as many handling errors as the Chiefs, and so it was fitting that their desperate effort at the end came to grief with a knock-on.
Penalties went the way of the Crusaders. Some of the penalties conceded by the Chiefs were indeed silly - possibly the product of their intense enthusiasm.
The Chiefs missed three kicks at goal, two of them long ones. One hit the upright (low down) and another the bottom of the crossbar but the biggest miss of the match was when Dan Crater was inexplicably short with a kick from in front - that when the score was 20-17 in the favour of the Chiefs - the final score.
There were occasions when the intensity got the better of the players and there was playground pushing and once fisticuffs which where whitecarded to suggest further investigation.
There was a penalty reversed and then advanced for dissent. There was silliness and the Chiefs looked more guilty of it than the Crusaders.
Were the Chiefs trying to get Richie McCaw's dander up? If they were, it did not work.
There was lots of razzmatazz at Waikato Stadium on a perfect Friday night - fierce Maori warriors, fireworks, singing and lots of good cheer but the best was the glee of the Chief warriors at the final whistle and Sona Taumalolo's victory dance.
Three points for a place in the Final and the assurance that this year's winner will be doing so for the first time in Super Rugby.
Aaron Cruden kicked off, both teams played with energy and speed and the first stoppage, two minutes later, was a penalty at a tackle against Sam Whitelock which Cruden goaled - 3-0 after two minutes.
There were two brawls, a penalty against Ben Tameifuna for shoving McCaw before a line-out started. There was another brawl when Taumalolo banged into McCaw when the ball was in touch.
Robbie Robinson saved when Carter grubbered and Cruden broke from near his own line as the Crusaders got more into the game.
Taumalolo was penalised at a tackle and Carter goaled - 3-3 after 15 minutes.
At this stage the Crusaders lost Luke Romano to a shoulder injury, his place taken by Tom Donnelly.
Cruden broke and got to within three metres of the Crusaders' line as the Chiefs launched a hectic offensive. Craig Clarke was close and so was Robinson but the Crusaders survived. Liam Messam burst through two Crusaders to speed off on a promising run.
The Chiefs mauled from a line-out and McCaw was penalised. Cruden missed the relatively easy kick.
Sonny Bill Williams burst through two tackles and sent Tawera Kerr-Barlow bursting for the line. The Chiefs bashed and the referee asked the TMO if he thought Taumalolo had scored. The TMO did think so and Cruden converted - 10-3 after 26 minutes and the Chiefs were in charge, sharper and harder than the Crusaders.
But a scrum penalty enabled Carter to make it 10-6 after 32 minutes.
The Chiefs kicked off, the Crusaders kicked downfield and then Robinson went on the best run of the night, beating Crusader after Crusader. Sonny Bill Williams carried it on and gave to Messam who skipped away from two to score near the posts - 17-6 after 34 minutes.
It seemed that the Chiefs would go whooping away with the match, but in fact in the next 46 minutes they scored just a solitary penalty goal.
The whitecarded brawl happened soon after with the main bareknuckle men Wyatt Crockett and Kane Thompson.
Immediately the Crusaders set up an strong attack till they lost the ball and Brodie Retallick flykicked downfield where the Chiefs caught Dagg and forced a five-metre scrum - or what would have been a five-metre scrum if the assistant referee had not reported that Andrew Horrell was ahead of the kick.
The penalty led to a line-out with 30 seconds to half-time and again the Crusaders attacked. Matt Todd found a gap and they went right where Ryan Crotty beat Kerr-Barlow and scored. Carter missed the easy conversion. 17-11, the half-time score.
The second half was not as zestful as the first and the Crusaders managed to get onto a better footing.
In the first eight minutes of the half there were seven penalties - one a reversed penalty when Kerr-Barlow stamped on Fruean, causing another emotional outburst.
Retallick was penalised at a tackle - 17-14 after 44 minutes.
Crockett was penalised at a scrum - 20-14 after 49 minutes.
The Chiefs were penalised at a scrum - 20-17 after 62 minutes.
There was no more scoring in the second half but the match was no less enthralling for that as it built more and more to the climax of the final whistle.
For a while it seemed that the Chiefs were losing speed on defence and then came those last 21 phases when suddenly they had all their drive and intent back.
The Chiefs kicked and the Crusaders countered and went into their phase mode. The siren went and the phases went on as the Chiefs tackled.
The Crusaders seemed to be manoeuvring Carter into drop range but then the Chiefs drove them back and Donnelly's knock-on to end the marvellous match came on the half-way line, provoking a Chiefs outburst of jumping, hugging, laughing glee.
Man of the Match: You would really look for a chief - Robbie Robinson, Sonny Bill Williams, Aaron Cruden, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Liam Messam, Ben Tameifuna and our Man of the Match Sona Taumalolo.
Moment of the Match: There was Liam Messam's try and the build-up to it but our choice is the final whistle after 21 phases.
Villain of the Match: Those who lost their cool, especially Kane Thompson and Wyatt Crockett.
For the Chiefs:
Tries: Taumalolo, Messam
Cons: Cruden 2
Pens: Cruden 2
For the Crusaders:
Pens: Carter 4
Chiefs: 15 Robbie Robinson, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Andrew Horrell, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Kane Thompson, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke (captain), 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Sona Taumalolo.
Replacements: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Ben Afeaki, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Brendon Leonard, 21 Jackson Willison, 22 Lelia Masaga.
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Adam Whitelock, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Richie McCaw (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Owen Franks, 18 Tom Donnelly, 19 Luke Whitelock, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Tom Taylor, 22 Sean Maitland.
Referee: Craig Joubert
Assistant referees: Jonathan Kaplan, Keith Brown
TMO: Garratt Williamson
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