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Crusaders overcome error-riddled Chiefs to book place in Super Rugby Pacific final

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Peter Meecham/Getty Images)

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The Crusaders have beaten an error-strewn Chiefs side in Christchurch to qualify for the Super Rugby Pacific final next week.

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In dreadful conditions at Orangetheory Stadium, Crusaders No 8 Cullen Grace grabbed a brace of tries, cancelling out the one scored by Chiefs prop Angus Ta’avao to hand his side a 20-7 victory.

A Pablo Matera red card, received after conceding two yellows, wasn’t a big enough advantage for the Chiefs, who were their own worst enemy on numerous occasions throughout the contest.

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One poor decision was often followed by another needless mistake, and while they dominated possession and territory, frequently parking themselves inside the opposition’s 22, the Chiefs couldn’t capitalise on their dominance.

Instead, the Crusaders, who should have shipped far more points with their poor discipline that resulted in a lopsided penalty count, defended stoutly throughout the entirety of the match.

In the end, with little more than 30 percent possession and minimal territory, the Crusaders produced over 140 more tackles than the Chiefs.

While there was a regular sense of cynicism in the way in which they tackled and attacked the breakdown, it has to be acknowledged the tenacity with which the Crusaders defended as it proved to be the hallmark of their hard-earned victory.

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Bidding for a sixth championship trophy in as many years, the Crusaders will meet the winner of the Blues-Brumbies who play the other semi-final at Eden Park on Saturday.

“It was effort. I’m immensely proud of the boys,” said Crusaders skipper Scott Barrett.

“You have to take your hats off to the Chiefs. They threw 120 per cent at us and I’m sure there are going to be some sore bodies over the next few days.”

The Chiefs needed everything to go right for them to upset the Crusaders but suffered a terrible opening quarter and blew three, hot try chances.

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Down 6-0 after two early Mo’unga penalties, the Chiefs saw the first try go begging when Pita Gus Sowakula failed to ground the ball in the 12th minute.

The Chiefs wasted the second chance on the cusp of halftime when Alex Nankivell flung a wide ball straight to Crusaders winger Leicester Fainga’anuku.

No 12 Quinn Tupaea later sent a pass sailing over Alex Nankivell’s head into the terraces as the unmarked centre streamed toward the right corner in the 54th minute.

The Chiefs battled to the finish but were constantly repelled by the wall of red-and-black jerseys as the Crusaders stayed firm in an attritional second half to set up another championship match in a week’s time.

Crusaders 20 (Tries to Cullen Grace (2); 2 conversions and 2 penalties to Richie Mo’unga)

Chiefs 7 (Try to Angus Ta’avao; conversion to Bryn Gatland)

– additional reporting from AAP

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