Beaten, bruised and a touch unlucky, I still have faith the Chiefs can win the title. Friday night's clash was intense - test match intense - and I had to stay firmly on the fence throughout.

It was a classic game, one good enough to have been the final and I don't think anyone would complain if these two end up meeting each other again with the title on the line.

I suspect it won't happen quite like that, though.

They may clash again but it's more likely to be in the semifinal.


Still, wherever they meet, I would be comfortable backing the Chiefs.

The big thing they have to fix is their lineout but I wouldn't imagine that would be too hard.

They have been pretty solid there all year and they will have learned a lot from Friday's game - they will know a lot more about Sam Whitelock and Luke Romano.

They will probably also have Craig Clarke back in the second row and that should restore their confidence. They just didn't have the accuracy or timing right rather and that can be amended during the week at training.

The pity of their malfunctioning set-piece was that it denied Aaron Cruden and Sonny Bill Williams the platform they needed to cut loose.

There was always a sense in Hamilton that those could spark into life at any point and slice through the Crusaders.

Williams' try was one that only he could have scored. It took incredible strength and power to blast through like that and if the Chiefs can get him more into the game in the next few rounds they will be a better team for it.

The Crusaders also enjoyed a little bit of luck. The try by Andy Ellis wasn't a try and the bounce of the ball went their way.

Watching the game with me was a group of people who felt Richie McCaw had referee Steve Walsh in his pocket.

That's the beauty of having someone so experienced with such a big reputation as captain - they can have influence - but maybe the Crusaders will struggle to enjoy that right with a different referee.

So the Chiefs were never far away and if Williams had passed in that last play, it probably would have been a draw.

To my mind they are still title contenders, still a team with the ability to go all the way, but I also hope the coaches learned something about their decision to take Tawera Kerr-Barlow off in the last 10 minutes.

I wasn't sure whey they did that. Kerr-Barlow was having a huge game and a huge influence and even if he was tiring, I would say he would still have been more effective than a fresh Brendon Leonard.

I know coaches are worried about halfbacks going the 80 minutes these days but Kerr-Barlow needed to be on the field in those closing stages and he might have made all the difference.