Defending champions the Chiefs will host a second successive Super Rugby final.
The Chiefs turned a 9-3 halftime deficit into a 20-9 lead midway through the second half and then courageously defended their line to win 20-19 in Hamilton.
The Chiefs won last year’s semi-final 20-17 against the Crusaders in Hamilton and scored an even more impressive win this season.
Prior to the match no New Zealand team had lost a home semi-final in 15 starts. The Chiefs on Saturday made that 16 from 16.
No New Zealand team hosting a final has ever lost, so it does not bode well for the Bulls or Brumbies, who will travel to Hamilton next week for the final.
Few outside of Hamilton had given the Chiefs a chance of victory but the champions showed the defensive qualities that won them last year’s semi-final and their refusal to give an inch on defence again proved decisive.
The Crusaders looked in cruise control for the first 40 minutes but the Chiefs turned the match on its head with an Aaron Cruden penalty and a moment of brilliance from Lelia Masaga.
Crusaders fullback Israel Dagg produced a response of equal class and Dan Carter reduced the deficit to one point with five minutes to go.
But the Chiefs were defensively too strong in those final few minutes. The Crusaders did not have the control up front and because of this did not have the patience to play the phases for a penalty chance to win the game.
Chiefs – Tries: Leila Masaga, Aaron Cruden. Conversion: Cruden (2). Penalties: Cruden (2).
Crusaders – Try: Israel Dagg. Conversion: Dan Carter. Penalties: Carter (4).
2013: Chiefs won 20-19 in Hamilton
2013: Crusaders won 43-15 in Christchurch
2013: Chiefs won 28-19 in Hamilton
2012: Chiefs won 20-17 in Hamilton
2012: Crusaders won 28-21 in Hamilton
2012: Chiefs won 24-19 in Napier
2011: Crusaders won 25-19 in Napier
2011: Crusaders won 34-16 in Tauranga
2010: Crusaders won 26-19 in Hamilton
2009: Crusaders won 19-13 in Christchurch
2008: Chiefs won 18-5 in Hamilton
Chiefs – 15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Charlie Ngatai, 12 Andrew Horrell, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Matt Vant Leven, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke (captain), 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Toby Smith.
Subs – 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Ben Afeaki, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Augustine Pulu, 21 Bundee Aki, 22 Robbie Robinson.
Crusaders – 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Tom Marshall, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Tom Taylor, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Subs – 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Luke Whitelock, 19 Richie McCaw, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Tyler Bleyendaal, 22 Adam Whitelock.