The Crusaders kept their Super Rugby play-off hopes alive on Friday with an impressive 58-17 victory over the Reds in Christchuch.
It was a special night for Crusaders icons Dan Carter and Richie McCaw as they celebrated what is likely to be their last game in a red jersey at AMI Stadium in style, with Carter having a particularly good game.
The Crusaders outscored their struggling Aussie visitors eight tries to two as they slashed the gap on the top six teams in the overall standings.
The home side only led 15-10 at the interval but six tries in the second half, including a brace for outstanding wing Nemani Nadolo, sealed an important win on a memorable night for the seven-time champions.
Further excellent performances from Colin Slade, Jordan Taufua and Nafi Tuitavake underlined the class in a Crusaders team that will surely still play a major role in the season run-in.
The Crusaders got off to a flyer with tries from half-backs Andy Ellis and Slade inside the first quarter, giving the home side a handy early lead.
Ellis was the beneficiary of a storming run from Nadolo down the touchline with the first attack of the game before some brilliant work from Carter in midfield put Slade away for a try from long range.
James O'Connor pulled three points back for the Reds from the tee in between those tries but the Crusaders completely dominated the first half-hour and a penalty from Slade to go with his conversion of the first try put the hosts 15-3 up.
The Reds were thrown a lifeline when Crusaders lock Dominic Bird was sent to the bin as a result of his team's repeated ruck infringements but the visitors fluffed a golden opportunity to strike back with some below-par technique at a maul while camped on the Crusaders' line.
Reward for their perseverance did eventually came in the form of try from centre Samu Kerevi, who powered through a handful of tacklers to score.
O’Connor's conversion on the stroke of half-time kept the Reds very much in the hunt as the teams swapped ends.
The Crusaders struck almost immediately after the restart though via an intercept try from Nadolo as the big winger pounced in an ill-advised pass from O’Connor before Slade added the extras to restore the 12-point gap.
O’Connor missed a sitter of a penalty shortly afterwards to further dent the Reds' spirits but Slade had no such worries with his second penalty giving his team a comfortable cushion.
From there the floodgates opened.
Nadolo showed his power to muscle his way past two defenders and to cross in the corner and seal the bonus point before Sam Whitelock showed impressive pace for a lock and great step as he bolted home from inside his own half.
Matt Todd finished off a wonderful team try started by a break from Carter before replacement wing Jone Macilai bagged number seven following a break from Kieron Fonotia.
Some quick hands as the ball went back and forth down the Crusaders line set up try number eight for Bird, who crashed over from short range.
Reds wing Chris Feauai-Sautia crossed for a good team try in the dying moments but it provided little consolation for a side that had been outplayed across the park.
Tries: Ellis, Slade, Nadolo 2, Whitelock, Todd, Macilai, Bird
Cons: Slade 6
Pens: Slade 2
Yellow card: Bird
Tries: Kerevi, Feauai-Sautia
Cons: O’Connor 2
Crusaders: 15 Tom Taylor, 14 Nafi Tuitavake, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Dan Carter, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Joe Moody, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 Richie McCaw, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Kieron Fonotia, 23 Jone Macilai.
Reds: 15 Lachie Turner, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Anthony Fainga’a, 11 James O’Connor, 10 Nick Frisby, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 James Horwill, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 James Hanson, 1 James Slipper (c).
Replacements: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Sef Fa'agase, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Marco Kotze, 20 Lolo Fakaosilea, 21 Scott Gale, 22 Ben Tapuai, 23 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi.
Venue: AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), Paul Williams (New Zealand)
TMO: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)