Chiefs 'dug deep' after blitzkrieg
A dramatic 17-point burst in the second-half carried the defending champion Chiefs into a second consecutive Super Rugby Final.
The men from Hamilton enjoyed a golden 10-minute spell – which lifted them from 3-9 down to a 20-9 lead – before they grimly held out a late Crusaders charge for a 20-19 win on Saturday.
Chiefs captain Craig Clarke spoke of his team's "grit" and "defence" when assessing the victory.
"It epitomises how big we can be with our defence, but made it hard for ourselves with our set piece," Clarke said.
However, the message at half-time was to "simplify things" and win the ball at the front of the line-outs through All Black Brodie Retallick.
"We did that a little bit and managed to hold some possession.
"However, I must mention them [the Crusaders], the way they came back into the game [after the Chiefs went 20-9 ahead].
"We were up by 11 [points] and that is a credit to how good they are. However, we dug pretty deep," he said of holding out in the face of the Crusaders' late charge.
He said the Chiefs' scoring blitz came from a change of tactics.
"We spread the ball more than we have done in previous weeks and they couldn't settle into their strong defensive system."
Man of the match Aaron Cruden admitted that they were seeking some 'revenge' after a heavy 15-43 loss to the Crusaders in Christchurch a fortnight ago.
"Our pride was damaged pretty heavily a couple of weeks ago by a quality Crusaders side," Cruden said.
"We really wanted to rectify that," he said, adding that desire and passion in front of our home crowd got them home this time round.
"We live to fight another day and we are just grateful."
Cruden admitted there will be a few sore bodies after a brutal encounter, but said that if you can't get up for a Final in front of your home fans you can't get up for anything.