The Crusaders ran in five fine tries to book themselves a semi-final place after beating the Brumbies 40-22 in Christchurch on Friday.
The Crusaders ran in five tries to book themselves a place in the Super 14 semi-finals after beating the Brumbies 40-22 in Christchurch on Friday.
As it stands now the Crusaders are in second place which would earn them a home semi-final, however with six matches still to come this weekend they can still drop down to third or fourth.
The hosts sent out a powerful warning that they are still very much Super 14 title contenders, and look to be coming into some timely form after sealing their ninth consecutive play-off spot in Super Rugby.
It was a devastatingly clinical showing in a match that at times was shrouded in fog. The Crusaders operated at optimal efficiency in all facets of play, especially defence, at a point in the tournament when they most need to.
They were intensely physical at the collisions, frighteningly quick and largely incisive in attacking play to pummel the Brumbies into submission.
The result was never in doubt as Richie McCaw's troops responded to the high stakes brilliantly – leading 22-10 at half-time – and then extended the margin out as far as 23 points in the second half before a late consolation try at least ended the Brumbies' night on a positive note.
In what was in effect a quarter-final, the Crusaders were well on their way to claiming the all-important bonus point thanks to tries to Sean Maitland, Kieran Read and Owen Franks.
That was eventually secured in the 52nd minute when captain Richie McCaw drove over from close range before Zac Guildford got the fifth in the dying stages of the match.
Dan Carter had another mixed night with the boot missing three of his nine kicks – all of the failures coming in the first half – but it didn't matter in the end.
It was another unhappy trip to Christchurch for the Brumbies, who have not won there since 2000, and it was not the farewell they wanted for departing flanker George Smith.
To compound their disappointment hooker Stephen Moore was taken to hospital after a nasty clash of heads with Franks forced him from the field with just 17 minutes gone.
The Crusaders made a shaky start to proceedings with Carter missing two penalty attempts inside the first four minutes.
The Brumbies then opted to turn down three points after going close to the game's opening try through Adam Ashley-Cooper, who was probably their best player on the night, but Moore knocked on from the line-out and the opportunity went begging.
It proved to be a costly mistake with the Crusaders scoring at the other end a few minutes later through Maitland after a strong counter-attack that involved Daniel Bowden, Guildford, George Whitelock and McCaw (twice) before the winger went over in the corner. Carter managed to slot the extras.
Bowden gifted the Brumbies their opening try with an intercept pass that Tyrone Smith gratefully accepted to run in unopposed under the posts and Matt Giteau's conversion levelled the scores.
A knock-on by Brumbies prop Salesi Ma'afu resulted in Read's try when Carter collected the loose ball and fed Robbie Fruean, who then slung the ball out to Guilford and the wing put boot to ball leaving Read to collect and slide over.
Three minutes later and Franks was diving over in the right-hand corner after the Brumbies were again opened up down the left flank. Carter's conversion gave the Crusaders a healthy 19-7 lead.
That was reduced to 19-10 by a Giteau penalty but Carter restored the 12-point advantage with his own three-pointer just before half-time.
Prop Ben Alexander, who had a torrid night in the scrums, gave the Brumbies the perfect start to the second spell with his seventh try of the season to help get the visitors back to within five points.
But ill-discipline from scrum-half Josh Valentine allowed the Crusaders to get back on the front foot and it wasn't long before McCaw was driving over from close range.
Carter kicked the conversion then slotted two penalties and Guildford rounded off a good performance on the left wing with the Crusaders final try of
the night, before Brumbies replacement hooker Huia Edmonds scored a consolation in the last movement of the match.
Man of the match: There were plenty of standout displays from the Crusaders forwards and backs alike, with Zac Guildford showing some classy touches on the wing and Owen Franks putting in a solid performance up front. But our vote goes to number eight Kieran Read, who had an influential game round the paddock, scoring one try and setting up two more – laying the foundations for a fantastic victory.
Tries: Maitland, Read, O Franks, McCaw, Guildford
Cons: Carter 3
Pens: Carter 3
Tries: T Smith, Alexander, Edmunds
Cons: Giteau 2
Crusaders: 15 Colin Slade, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Daniel Bowden, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 George Whitelock, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Ti'i Paulo, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Daniel Perrin, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Chris Jack, 19 Thomas Waldrom, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Tim Bateman, 22 Jared Payne.
Brumbies: 15 Julian Huxley, 14 Pat McCabe, 13 Tyrone Smith, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Josh Valentine, 8 Stephen Hoiles (c), 7 George Smith, 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 Mark Chisholm, 4 Mitchell Chapman, 3 Salesi Maafu, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Ben Alexander.
Replacements: 16 Huia Edmonds, 17 Jerry Yanuyanutawa, 18 Ben Hand, 19 Colby Faingaa, 20 Patrick Phibbs, 21 Brackin Karauria-Henry, 22 Andrew Smith.
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)