The Crusaders got back to winning ways in Super Rugby on Friday as they showed their class to beat the Waratahs 29-10 in Christchurch.
After a loss to the Highlanders in Dunedin, Todd Blackadder's men responded well as tries from Johnny McNicholl, Israel Dagg, Richie Mo'unga and Jordan Taufua secured the four points that takes them provisionally clear at the top.
The Waratahs didn't roll over though and tries from Rob Horne and Zac Guildford meant the home side were denied a maximum haul.
Despite the poor weather conditions, the Crusaders came out playing some scintillating rugby and were 12-0 in front inside nine minutes.
Many teams would have opted for safe rugby but the skills on show were so impressive as first McNicholl slid over on the right wing before a cross-kick from Mo'unga to the aforementioned wing led to him offloading superbly to Dagg and the full-back was over on the same side.
It could have been more but McNicholl had a try chalked off for flank Matt Todd not retreating from a kick, which kept the 'Tahs alive.
Mo'unga kept the scoreboard ticking over with a penalty on 18 minutes that made it 15-0 but eight minutes later the 'Tahs were on the board with a five-pointer. It came from the impressive Israel Folau's break, with his offload being hacked on by Horne who then slid over.
There was more to come in the rain too and it was a response from the Crusaders as Andy Ellis, playing his 150th game for the men in red and black, set up his fly-half for their third try of the contest. Mo'unga slotted the extras for a half-time advantage of 22 points to five.
The game took a dip in tempo at the start of the second-half as no further scores were added until the hour mark when, after a period of sustained pressure on the Waratahs line, the Australians finally buckled as flanker Taufua crashed over by the post. That made it 29-5.
Credit to the Waratahs though as they responded in quick time through replacement Guildford, who raced to the line for a try that chalked off the hosts' bonus-point. They had 15 minutes to get it back but couldn't find the elusive try as they would settle for a deserved four points.
Tries: McNicholl, Dagg, Mo'unga, Taufua
Cons: Mo'unga 3
Tries: Horne, Guildford
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Jone Macilai, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Ged Robinson, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Mika Alaalatoa, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Tim Boys, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 David Havili, 23 Marty McKenzie
Waratahs: 15 Andrew Kellaway, 14 Reece Robinson, 13 Israel Folau, 12 David Horwitz, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Jed Holloway, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dean Mumm, 5 Will Skelton, 4 Dave Dennis, 3 Tom Robertson, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Paddy Ryan
Replacements: 16 Angus Ta’avao, 17 Hugh Roach, 18 Jeremy Tilse, 19 Sam Lousi, 20 Wycliff Palu, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 Matt Carraro, 23 Zac Guildford
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant Referees: Jaco van Heerden, Kane McBride
TMO: Chris Wratt