The Crusaders sent out a big warning to other teams in the Vodacom Super Rugby series as they produced an excellent first-half blitz to run out comfortable 42-14 winners over the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday.
In a game primed to celebrate All Black legend Dan Carter’s 100th appearance for the seven-time champions, the Crusaders produced a sensational opening 40 minutes before holding out comfortably in the second to take all five points on offer, crossing the line five times in the process.
Their early dominance was so much that they already had their bonus point before the break against a Canes team that looked out of sorts and whose kicking game was woeful, to say the least.
The Crusaders confirmed with the win that they will definitely be title contenders this year, and certainly showed that they are more than capable of winning anywhere in the competition, their form showing a clear upward trend.
The Hurricanes continue to flatter to deceive, showing bits of brilliance but never enough to threaten their opposition, and while coach Mark Hammett has done well with the side, he still needs to instill that discipline and decision-making that will eventually get them to the title.
It was a textbook start for the visitors, as Tom Taylor telegraphed an inside pass to Zac Guildford with precision that it broke the defensive line, and the winger did what was necessary, sending the pass to a galloping Kieran Reid for the opening try.
Taylor stretched the lead with a penalty shortly afterwards, before Israel Dagg found some space and then the centurian Carter on his outside, with 'DC' running in for an easy try.
Another Taylor penalty and the Canes were truly staring down the barrel, but things didn’t get any easier for them as Robbie Fruean took a beauty of a ball out of the air, and then easily beat a sloppy and weary defence in a straight run to the line.
It went from bad to worse as Dagg scored in the corner, especially as referee Craig Joubert didn’t pick up two forward passes after denying the home side a possible try earlier with a forward pass call.
But there was some delight for the Canes when Andre Taylor stepped the defence for a solo try shortly before the halftime whistle, at least putting them on the board with a mountain still to climb.
The home side started off well in the second half, no doubt Hammett giving them a stern talking to during the break, and before you knew it, had pulled one try back thanks to Victor Vito, whose tap and go caught the Crusaders napping close to their line, and put the Hurricanes into double figures.
From there the match degenerated somewhat as the Crusaders cruised ahead now assured of victory, while the Canes could never quite find their feet enough to pose a threat.
Dagg finished matters off after Reid was stopped close to the line, with Carter sending the ball wide for the fullback’s second try, and a convincing win on the evening.
Hurricanes - Tries: Andre Taylor, Victor Vito. Conversions: Beauden Barrett (2).
Crusaders - Tries: Kieran Read, Dan Carter, Robbie Freuan, Israel Dagg (2). Conversions: Tom Taylor (4). Penalties: Taylor (3).