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The Gallagher Chiefs are through to the Super Rugby semi-finals after a tense and hard fought 17-11 win over the Stormers at Newlands in Cape Town.

In a rematch of their round robin encounter at the same venue back in April, the Gallagher Chiefs exacted revenge for that loss with a gritty and controlled display, as the boot of fullback Damian McKenzie and a late try to replacement Shaun Stevenson helped them grind out the victory.

To open the match, a nice period on attack from the Stormers was met by some rock solid Gallagher Chiefs defence, and they comfortably stopped over 10 phases of attack before McKenzie cleared with a long punt.

Both teams then had their moments on attack, with the Stormers enjoying the better of possession and territory in the opening quarter, but handling errors at either end of the field prevented any points being scored.

Despite neither side really threatening to get on the scoreboard, the high tempo of the match mixed with the tense playoff atmosphere among both the players and the crowd, made for some entertaining play.

Finally, in the 24th minute, the first scoring opportunity of the afternoon was presented to the home side with a penalty 40 metres out, and fullback SP Marais gave the Stormers the lead.

A couple of minutes later a huge scrum from the Gallagher Chiefs produced a penalty and McKenzie was on target with an equally impressive kick, over 40 metres out on the angle, to tie the scores.

After a charging run from the restart by second five Stephen Donald, the Gallagher Chiefs then earned another penalty near the halfway line as the Stormers held onto the ball at the ruck after a knock on. McKenzie nailed his second long range attempt to nudge the Chiefs in front.

With momentum shifting in their favour, the visitors worked their way downfield once more with back to back penalties putting huge pressure on the Stormers defence. From a lineout five metres from the line, the Gallagher Chiefs patiently worked towards the middle of the field before being awarded yet another penalty. This time they opted for the shot at goal and McKenzie extended the lead to 9-3.

There was one last Stormers attack before halftime but hooker Nathan Harris won a timely penalty at the breakdown to ensure the Gallagher Chiefs held their lead as the teams headed into the break.

The Stormers needed a strong start to the second half to get the crowd back into the match, and they got it as they worked the ball towards the Chiefs line with captain Siya Kolisi crossing in the right hand corner for the first try of the match.

Marais pushed his sideline conversion attempt wide and the Gallagher Chiefs held on to a one point lead.

A knock on from the restart gave the Gallagher Chiefs a chance to respond quickly, and after 15 phases of sustained pressure they came away with another three points from the boot of McKenzie.

Despite plenty of possession, handling errors at crucial times began to cost the home side as they remained behind by four points with the match heading into the final quarter, but they were given an extra boost as Sam Cane was yellow carded for a high tackle.

With the one-man advantage, the home side swung onto attack and soon narrowed the Gallagher Chiefs lead back to one point with Marais slotting his second penalty.

Cane returned from the sin bin with no further damage done, but the Gallagher Chiefs were clinging on to their slim lead with 10 minutes still remaining.

Marais had a penalty chance from out wide to put his side in front, from a similar position to his conversion attempt, but he again pushed it wide.

As play shifted back downfield the Gallagher Chiefs suddenly looked likely against a tiring Stormers defence, and a pin point wide pass from first five Aaron Cruden found an unmarked Shaun Stevenson who scored in the right hand corner with his first touch of the match, having only just taken the field as a replacement for Solomon Alaimalo.

McKenzie couldn’t convert so the Stormers had one last chance with just two minutes left to keep their season alive.

Their late charge lasted several phases but some staunch Chiefs defence saw them hang on for the win to book their spot in next weekend’s Super Rugby semi-finals.

Gallagher Chiefs 17 (Shaun Stevenson try; Damian McKenzie 4 pens) Stormers 11 (Siya Kolisi try; SP Marais 2 pens) HT: 9-3.

The Gallagher Chiefs now return to New Zealand for a mouth-watering semi-final match up in Christchurch against the Crusaders.

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