Giant leap forward for Chiefs
Fri, 11 Jul 2014 14:10
There was a bit of fear
The Chiefs took a giant leap towards joining Super Rugby's illustrious hat-trick club - three consecutive titles.
That club currently has just one member, the Crusaders - who scored their hat-trick in 1998, 1999 and 2000. The Blues (1996 and 1997) and Bulls (2009 and 2010) are the only teams with back-to-back titles - a feat also achieved by the Crusaders in 2005 and 20006, to go with their hat-trick.
The defending champions scraped into the Super Rugby play-offs with a tightly fought 11-8 victory over the Blues on Friday.
The Chiefs needed a win in the final match of the regular season to make the top six and keep alive their dream of securing three Super Rugby titles in a row.
They did it with a strong defensive effort against a committed Blues outfit who had little to play for but came close to derailing their North Island rivals' campaign.
The win means the Chiefs are definitely in the top six, although they must await the outcome of other matches to determine if they will finish fifth or sixth.
Chiefs captain and flyhalf Aaron Cruden believes his team's heroic defensive effort, in the first half, paved the way to the victory in Auckland.
"It was extremely hard work," Cruden said.
"The boys showed a lot of character.
"There's been a lot of doubters, but within our circle we've kept the faith and it's paid off."
While the Chiefs have endured a season marred by inconsistency and poor form, Cruden said they were going into the finals full of confidence after two wins in a row.
"Last week was a step forward and this week is a massive step forward," he said.
"There was a bit of fear coming into this game, it could have been the end of the season, but we stuck it out to win."
The Chiefs weathered that metaphorical storm during the opening period, then asserted themselves by balancing the ledger of territory and possession, then taking the lead with an Aaron Cruden penalty - the only points of the first half.
"We probably made harder work of it than we needed to," said Cruden.
"But we knew it was going to be a tough cookie here against the Blues.
"I'm stoked for the boys. They showed a lot of character, especially in that first 20 minutes and we were able to hang on in the end."
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