The Crusaders booked their place in the Super Rugby semis thanks to a 38-9 victory over the Reds in Christchurch on Saturday.
The Crusaders booked their place in the Super Rugby semi-finals thanks to a 38-9 victory over the Reds in their play-off in Christchurch on Saturday.
The identity of the seven-time champions' semi-final opponents depends on the result of Sunday's other play-off between the Brumbies and Cheetahs: A home victory for the Brumbies will mean the Crusaders stay in New Zealand for a date with the Chiefs in Hamilton next Saturday but they will have travel to Pretoria to face the Bulls if the Cheetahs get the job done in Canberra.
The Crusaders outscored the 2011 champs four tries to none in a one-sided affair as they notched their impressive late-season form up a level.
The Reds looked to go toe-to-toe with the big home pack with little success as they were consistently outmuscled in the tight phases. Off that platform, the Crusaders backs could keep the scoreboard ticking.
The Crusaders led 21-6 at the interval thanks to tries from Ryan Crotty and Dan Carter and the gap could well have been a lot larger as the TMO twice turned down the hosts after they crossed the whitewash.
A try from Tom Marshall and another for Crotty secured the victory in the second period as the Crusaders maintained their unbeaten record in play-offs on home soil.
Carter opened the scoring early on when the Reds back-line was penalised for drifting offside.
And the Crusaders went 10-0 up when Crotty exposed the Reds midfield's defensive frailty, busting through Jono Lance's tackle to score under the posts. Full-back Israel Dagg's charge for the line had set up a five-metre scrum and the Crusaders made the most of the opportunity as Carter sent a short pass to centre Crotty, running back on the angle. Carter added the easy conversion.
All the momentum was with the hosts but Quade Cooper got his team on the scoreboard on the 15-minute mark after Crotty was penalised for not releasing the tackled player.
Reds full-back Ben Lucas had a crack from long range but his effort grazed the outside of the upright to leave the scores at 10-3 at the end of the first quarter.
Carter restored the 10-point gap after Wyatt Crockett got the better of James Slipper at scrum time and forced the penalty. Cooper replied almost immediately however as Crockett undid his previous good work by giving away an offside penalty.
The hosts stretched their lead on the half-hour mark though, when Carter showed his pace to score in the corner after a break from Sam Whitelock. The fly-half's conversion effort sailed wide, but at 18-6 the hosts were in the driving seat.
Reds flank Eddie Quirk was pinged for not letting go as the Crusaders pack rumbled through a ruck and Carter hit the target to make it 21-6. And so it remained until the break as the TMO could not find evidence that George Whitelock had grounded the ball over the try-line in the dying minutes of the half.
A sensational try early in the second period essentially sealed the result for the home side. Crockett made a break and an excellent offload to Matt Todd, who provided the link with another great pass to Marshall for the hosts' third five-pointer.
Carter's conversion took the advantage to 22 points meaning that when the TMO found no clear evidence of a Reds try after a rare attack, the visitors' hopes were over and Richie McCaw's late appearance off the bench was anecdotal.
Yet the Crusaders kept pushing and Carter produced another piece of magic with a break and offload to send Crotty over for his second try.
Tom Taylor added a late penalty to rub salt into the wounds of a well-beaten Reds team.
Tries: Crotty 2, Carter, Marshall
Cons: Carter 3
Pens: Carter 3, Taylor
Pens: Cooper 3
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Tom Marshall, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Tom Taylor, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett. Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Luke Whitelock, 19 Richie McCaw, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Tyler Bleyendaal, 22 Adam Whitelock.
Reds: 15 Ben Lucas, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Jono Lance, 11 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 James Slipper, 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Greg Holmes.
Replacements: 16 Albert Anae, 17 Jono Owen, 18 Ed O'Donoghue, 19 Radike Samo, 20 Beau Robinson, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Luke Morahan.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand), Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Television match official: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)