The seven-time champions were brutally efficient in demonstrating how to win a game without the ball as the Chiefs dominated territory as well as possession, and split the defensive line on numerous occasions, but were unable to finish.
The Crusaders, who have not won the title since 2008, now
face the winner of the later semi-final in
Having slipped up in their last match of the regular season against the Hurricanes, the Crusaders will be relying on their compatriots to beat the Lions and give them a home final.
“I don’t know how Seta does it, he seems to make a try out of nothing,” Crusaders captain Sam Whitelock said.
“We didn’t have the ball much and the boys were definitely blowing and the legs were heavy, but full credit to the boys – they were just hanging on and showed some real determination and grit.”
A 14-1 regular season record, which included a 31-24 victory in May over the Chiefs, had made the Crusaders strong favourites to progress to the final.
The Chiefs played the far more expansive game, however, looking dangerous with the ball in hand and stretching the Crusaders across the field, but their only reward for their first-half efforts was two penalties from Damian McKenzie.
The home side, by contrast, capitalised on the few opportunities they created with All Blacks Ryan Crotty and Israel Dagg sparking a sweeping counter attack that ended with scrumhalf Bryn Hall scoring.
Flyhalf Richie Mo’unga, who had slotted an earlier penalty, converted to give the Crusaders a 10-6 lead at halftime.
The home side moved further ahead when Mo’unga created a try by tackling James Lowe as the wing was trying to make a clearing kick, and the ball popped into Dagg’s hands.
Tamanivalu stormed over from an attacking scrum to score his first try, and then grabbed his second to give the Crusaders a 27-6 lead with eight minutes remaining.
Brodie Retallick finally breached the Crusaders’ line for a
consolation try for the visitors before they bid farewell to stalwarts Tawera
Kerr-Barlow, Aaron Cruden, Lowe and coach Dave Rennie, who are all joining
“Rugby is a momentum game and we thought we created a lot of chances... but you have to give credit to the Crusaders, they scrambled really well, and when we looked to have them on the ropes, they did enough to hold us out,” flyhalf Cruden said.
“We gave everything we had. It was a great campaign... and we can hold our heads up.”
Crusaders – Tries: Bryn Hall, Israel Dagg, Seta Tamanivalu (2). Conversions: Richie Mo’unga (2). Penalty: Mo’unga.
Chiefs – Try: Brodie Retallick. Conversion: Damian McKenzie. Penalties: McKenzie (2).