The Crusaders were denied a bonus point in the end, but they were full value for their comprehensive 38-22 win over the Hurricanes in Christchurch on Saturday.
It was the Crusaders’ 17th consecutive win, a record for the New Zealand franchise.
The Crusaders haven’t been beaten since back-to-back losses away to the Hurricanes and Highlanders a year ago and have overtaken the previous record of 16 wins set by the Crusaders of 2005-06.
They also extended their impressive home run to 21 matches without defeat in three years.
But having let in two late tries, one four minutes after the full-time hooter, meant they were denied a bonus point – the final try count six-to-four for the home team.
Playing into a stiff ‘breeze’ in the first half, the Crusaders showed how effective they can be when holding onto the ball.
The Hurricanes did not do their own cause any favours with sloppy set pieces and inaccuracy in general play.
The Crusaders turned their dominance into a deserved 24-0 half-time lead.
When Scott Barrett scored his second try just minutes into the second half, for a 31-0 lead, the game was well-and-truly over as a contest.
Assisted by a rash of changes to the Crusaders team, the Hurricanes finally found some rhythm.
A Ben Lam try seemed to indicate a comeback of some sorts. That was followed by a Wes Goosen try, but the Crusaders were leading by enough to remain in cruise mode.
Those late tries were scant consolation for the visitors.
For most of the game the Crusaders feasted on stolen line-out ball, Matt Todd dominated the breakdown, and their All Blacks-laden Crusaders pack kept the Hurricanes eight under constant pressure.
Todd, the Crusaders skipper, said the dominant first half was the making of the game.
“We came out with the attitude to attack and we scored some good tries which was pleasing,” Todd said.
“The second half got a bit messy,” he added.
Two of the Crusaders tries to Scott Barrett came when they departed from their renowned line-out drive and used a new tactic of peeling off to move play infield.
“Obviously teams know we like to drive so we have to have variations off that and it’s always nice when stuff you work on at training comes off on game day,” Todd said.
Hurricanes skipper Dane Coles described it as “a good, old-fashioned lesson in how to play Super Rugby. They’ve set the benchmark.”
The Hurricanes, champions in 2016 and semi-finalists for the past two years, received few chances, and those they did get were quickly nullified.
When they chose a scrum instead of a kickable shot at goal midway through the second half they were pushed off their own ball.
The new line-out move for the Crusaders saw Barrett open the scoring in both halves.
Richie Mo’unga also scored twice with his first resulting from delicate work down the sideline by Manasa Mataele who managed to keep his outside foot off the ground long enough to get his pass away as he was being tackled over the touchline.
From the restart, the Crusaders mounted an 80-metre counter attack which resulted in Jordan Taufua’s try and Mo’unga scored his second after the Crusaders opted for a scrum rather than a close-range shot at goal on the stroke of half-time.
As the game loosened up in the second half the Hurricanes came back with two early tries to Ben Lam and Wes Goosen.
The Crusaders responded with one to George Bridge before Lam and Thomas Perenara added two more for the Hurricanes.
Man of the match: David Havili, Jack Goodhue and Richie Mo’unga showed their class, while Scott Barrett showed why he is one of New Zealand’s premier and most valuable locks. Our award goes to Crusaders wing Manasa Mataele – who caused havoc with the Hurricanes defence, often creating opportunities for his teammates, such as the Richie Mo’unga’s first try. There will be concern about the knee injury he suffered midway through the second half.
For the Crusaders:
Tries: S Barrett 2, Mo’unga 2, Taufua, Bridge
Cons: Mo’unga 3, Hunt
For the Hurricanes:
Tries: Lamb 2, Goosen, Perenara
Con: J Barrett
Yellow card: Mitch Hunt (Crusaders, 80 – repeated infringements, slowing the ball down illegally)
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