The seven time Super Rugby champions Crusaders, host the two-time champions and fellow New Zealanders, the Chiefs in the first of the two Semi-finals.
The Crusaders and Chiefs have already met once this year and the Crusaders won the match 31-24 in Suva.
The Crusaders have never lost a playoff fixture when playing as the home team on the day. This is the Christchurch side’s eleventh final, but the last time they won the title, was nine years ago.
In 2012 and 2013 the Chiefs hosted the Crusaders in back-to-back home semifinals – with the Chiefs winning 20-17 and 20-19.
We are waiting for the kick-off.
The teams are out on the field as Vangelis’ Conquest of Paradise rings out around the ground.
1.00: BEEP! BEEP! We are underway at AMI Stadium in Christchurch. Damian McKenzie has played every minute of Super Rugby this season and leads all the attacking statistics in the tournament and he has accumulated 132 points this campaign.
4.00: Both teams are kicking away possession in search of territory, however, the kicking has been somewhat aimless.
5.00: After six phases, Aaron Cruden breaks from halfway, runs into the Crusaders’ 22, but is tackled by Matt Todd and the All Black first five-eighth knocks the ball on in the tackle.
8.00: Tawera Kerr-Barlow puts in a lofted box-kick, but it is too long and Israel Dagg claims an easy mark. There is still too much poor kicking by both sides. The Chiefs have, to be fair, tried to keep the ball in hand, but they cannot hang on to the ball in the crucial moments.
10.00: After 13 phases, Cruden, under no pressure, knocks on while attempting a kick; the visitors ran out of ideas in that series, but the Crusaders’ defence was superb.
13.00: The Crusaders go a dozen phases and are camped inside the Chiefs’ 22. Richie Mo’unga and Jack Goodhue both go close before James Lowe is penalised for offsides. Mo’unga will take a shot at goal from close range.
14.00: PENALTY! It is good from the standoff: 3-0
16.00: The Crusaders go to their lineout maul and proceed to drive the Chiefs 20 metres backwards. The ball is eventually lost but kicked away to the home team and they attack again.
17.00: TRY Bryn Hall! It started inside their half with Dagg beginning the counter-attack. Ryan Crotty beat two tacklers before offloading back to the wing. Dagg races forward and gives the ball to the scrum-half, who runs clear for the game’s first try: 8-0
18.00: Good kick by Mo’unga, who slots the wide conversion: 10-0
21.00: TRY Tim Nanai-Williams? Charlie Ngatai made the initial break in midfield. Lowe gets the ball and kicks it through David Havili’s legs on the touchline. The chase is good from the Chiefs and Nanai-Williams, on the opposite wing, picks up and carries the ball over the whitewash.
22.00: Wait! We are checking the grounding with the TMO. Glenn Newman decides that the ball was lost forward in the grounding and so, the try does not stand. That is very debatable, even on slow motion replay. The Crusaders get a BIG let off.
25.00: Havili is penalised for being offsides and the Chiefs will take the points.
26.00: PENALTY! McKenzie makes no mistake: 10-3
28.00: Hall loses the ball and McKenzie kicks the loose ball forwards into the Saders’ 22. But, the cover D is in place to halt any counter-attack. That was sloppy from the home team.
31.00: McKenzie wriggles out of two tackles, sets up a ruck before the Chiefs go wide through Liam Messam. Anton Lienert-Brown ghosts through a big gap is tackled near the 22 and the visitors recycle.
33.00: The Chiefs go 13 phases, but are penalised at the breakdown for holding; great work from Crotty, who won the ball on the ground. The tackling from the Crusaders was superb.
35.00: The Crusaders have made 78 tackles to the Chiefs’ 24.
37.00: Another series of phases ends with the Chiefs getting a penalty inside the home team’s 22. It started from a wonderful cross-kick by Cruden to Nanai-Williams, deep inside Chiefs territory and ends with a potential three points.
38.00: PENALTY! McKenzie reduces the deficit to four points: 10-6
40.00: BIG MOMENT! Lowe breaks down the wing after McKenzie breaks from his 22. Mo’unga gets back to save the day, but the Chiefs go wide to the right, they had a six on two overlap but they botch the ruck with another knock on. That was poor in the end by the visitors.
The half-time score was Crusaders 10 Chiefs 6
41.00: BEEP! BEEP! We are back underway in Christchurch in the first semi-final of the weekend. Despite being behind at half-time, the Chiefs have had most of the play. Brodie Retallick and Damian McKenzie were excellent for the visitors in that first 40 minutes.
43.00: The Crusaders have never lost a playoff game at home, however, they have lost four of the last five encounters against the Waikato outfit.
45.00: Scott Barrett wins the turnover at the breakdown, but loses it straight away; that’s the second time that has happened in the match. The Chiefs have conceded eight turnovers to the Crusaders’ two. The Chiefs do, however, get the scrum.
46.00: The combination between Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Aaron Cruden has been superb, and is causing lots of problems for the home team. Cruden and McKenzie have also been dangerous on attack, especially playing off each other.
47.00: The Saders win the game’s seventh penalty and clear their lines. They will have the lineout on halfway.
49.00: The Chiefs win the following five-man lineout and attack through Cruden and McKenzie before the ball is lost by Michael Leitch. The Crusaders hack the ball down the field and the chase is on.
50.00: TRY Israel Dagg! James Lowe attempts to clear from near his goal-line, but Mo’unga, trying to tackle the wing, accidentally knocks the ball back as Lowe tries to kick and Dagg gathers to score a very lucky try: 15-6
51.00: The conversion is wide: 15-6
53.00: Charlie Ngatai saves a certain try after a breakout attack by Ryan Crotty and Jack Goodhue, intercepting on the touchline. Mo’unga was then pinged for tackling a player in the air and the Chiefs clear to the Saders’ 22.
56.00: McKenzie takes a bomb, under immense pressure, but the ball goes out and the Crusaders have the lineout. Michael Alaalatoa breaks forward and Seta Tamanivalu is held up over the goal-line by Tawera Kerr-Barlow.
58.00: TRY Seta Tamanivalu! The winger powers through Charlie Ngatai and Tim Nanai-Williams with an angled run. Kerr-Barlow cannot stop the winger this time: 20-6
59.00: Mo’unga extends the Crusaders’ lead: 22-6
62.00: As we enter the final quarter, the Chiefs need to score and soon. The Crusaders have given a master-class in how to play without the ball. The home team has had only 28 percent possession and 25 percent territory – that is insane, especially, considering they are at home and are leading by 16 points.
65.00: Matt Todd has made 20 tackles, Jordan Taufua, 18 and Samuel Whitelock, 16; that is immense from those three forwards.
69.00: The chiefs have spent 5 minutes 11 seconds inside the Saders’ 22, while the home team has been inside the visitor’s 22 for only a minute, but have scored three tries to none.
71.00: The Crusaders break from their 22, McKenzie does well to get back and make the tackle, but the fullback is penalised for not releasing the tackled player. The Crusaders kick to the 22, win another penalty and do the same. They are running the clock down, instead of taking a game-ending three points.
73.00: TRY Seta Tamanivalu! Game over! The winger goes over in the corner, and after a quick check with the TMO, Glen Jackson awards the try: 27-6
74.00: Mo’unga misses from the sideline: 27-6
78.00: TRY Brodie Retallick! The lock scores his team’s first try, but it’s too little, too late: 27-11
79.00: The conversion is good: 27-13
80.00: The hooter sounds, the Crusaders have the ball and launch it into the stands and are into another Super Rugby final, their first since 2014.
The final score is Crusaders 27 (10) Chiefs 13 (6)
Tries – Hall, Dagg, Tamanivalu (2)
Pen – Mo’unga
Con – Mo’unga (2)
Tries – Retallick
Pen – McKenzie (2)
Con – McKenzie
Referee: Glen Jackson
Assistant Ref 1: Angus Gardner
Assistant Ref 2: Ben O’Keeffe
TMO: Glenn Newman
15 David Havili, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Seta Tamanivalu, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Samuel Whitelock (captain), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 George Bridge.
15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (co-captain), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane (co-captain), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Mitchell Brown, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Liam Polwart, 17 Aidan Ross, 18 Atu Moli, 19 Dominic Bird, 20 Lachlan Boshier, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Stephen Donald, 23 Shaun Stevenson