The Crusaders broke a super rugby record with an incredible defensive performance that killed the Chiefs by strangling them and booking a place in the final next weekend.
The red-and-black juggernaut set a competition record of 222 tackles in a 20-7 semifinal win in Christchurch to extend his perfect 27-27 home record in the playoffs.
The Crusaders, who have reached their 16th final, will meet the winner in Saturday’s Blues-Brumbs semis at Eden Park.
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Scott Robertson’s side remained strong after losing star Flanker Pablo Matera, who was sacked by Australian referee Nick Berry in the first half.
Matera received two yellow cards – the first for a rack violation after a string penalty against his side and the second for a high shot by Brian Gatland.
“I think it’s a bit of a discrepancy between a team penalty and a separate card,” said Matara’s Argentina coach Michael Cheika at Stan Sport.
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Mothers read the controversial carding
“He has paid the final price.”
The All Blacks went even further than the great Andrew Mehertens checker, who joked that he was trying to get the referees back in the good books.
“I think that’s an absurdity,” Mehertens said.
Shawn Maloney and Andrew Mehertens watch the Super Rugby Pacific Final and talk to outgoing Brumbis legend Scott Seo
“This offense requires a yellow card and 10 minutes.”
Mothers were in everything in her short time in the park.
Pumas Powerhouse was also a hit recipient from Queen Tupaiya who drew a yellow card despite the Matera fall.
“I thought it was not worth a card,” Mehertens said.
“The process is wrong. They never saw it in real motion. The mothers were going down, Tupier didn’t have time to change his height.”
Cheika will now have to worry about whether Matera will receive more punishment from the judiciary.
“You hope they like smart,” said the former Wallabis boss.
According to the tackle count, the chiefs had plenty of possession and had more chances to score than trying to help Angus Tavau.
But executing them in cold and windy conditions was not good enough.
Brad Weber, co-captain of the Chiefs, said: “It really hurts. There’s a lot to regret.”
“It’s going to be hard to overcome. Damn, we should have scored more points and probably won the game. The situation was really tough. I don’t think I’ve ever played a game like that.”
Crusader No. 8 Cullen Grace made two attempts to lift a home pack missing the late scratching Sam Whitelock.
Crusaders captain Scott Barrett said: “I think there was a great effort behind all the tackles.
“You have to take your hats to the chiefs, they’ve thrown 120 percent at us and I’m sure there’s going to be some bad guys in the next few days.”
“We like a challenge. Sometimes we got down to 14 and had to go in front of us. The final was about defending football and there was a lot of good effort.”
The Brumbies will start the second semis against a blues team led by Bouden Barrett and set a record winning streak.
But Cheika, a Super Rugby winning coach with the Waratas in 2014, is not counting them.
“If they’re in the right headspace, they can do it.”
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