The Crusaders made it three wins from four in the Super 14 with a 33-20 win over the Blues on Saturday as clinical as it was excellent.
Much the same as last week, the Crusaders patiently held their opposition and waited for the mistakes to come, pouncing on each and every opportunity that came their way to seal the deal.
The Blues began the game with a huge drive 20m upfield and kick ahead which had Carter troubled as cover and turning the ball over - he was lucky to escape. They had all the possession and were rewarded with an early penalty to Stephen Brett.
Maitland's spilled high ball and a turnover at a close-range line-out - punished by a Brett drop goal - shortly after were sure-fire signs that the Crusaders were not quite on their game at the outset. By the tenth minute alone they had made four handling errors.
Yet the disciplinary monkey that had climbed all over the Blues' back in their first week loss to the Hurricanes once again made an appearance and a brace of Dan Carter penalties brought the hosts back to parity at 6-6 and the home side looked a good deal more settled.
Brett gave the Blues back the lead immediately following an infringement at the restart but finally, on 20 minutes, the error-strewn opening was given some fluency.
Carter was the architect, spotting the defence drifting a little too much and he cut inside, freeing up George Whitelock for a stroll under the posts.
It was the only really threatening action of a tawdry first half, in which neither side found rhythm. The Blues persisted with punishing fringe pick and goes but the Crusaders quickly wised up and negated that by committing a maximum of two defenders to each ruck. The Crusaders played for territory but thus spent long periods without the ball. There really wasn't much to see.
Carter landed one more penalty and Brett two to make the score 16-15 at the break.
The second half was little better but it was tighter. There were fewer penalties and errors but neither side showed much desire to create spaces for the scorers, nor did either show much of the necessary skill. It became a tense tactical tussle as the teams waited for the critical mistake to come.
It came in the 56th minute. Andy Ellis put up a well-weighted chip which Rudi Wulf took running back, but Wulf fired a wild pass inside to try and launch a counter. Ryan Crotty gleefully raced between two hesitant would-be pass recipients, intercepted the floating ball and hared under the posts.
Carter landed another penalty shortly after to make it 26-15 and maintain his perfect kicking record and despite one superb solo attack by Brett, foiled by Carter, they rarely showed the thrust needed to breach the home side's line.
Carter's flat pass sent Robbie Fruean through a gap for the third try with twelve minutes to go, again under the posts and again with Carter converting.
Alby Mathewson nipped through an ill-defended ruck to notch a consolation for the Blues but the day belonged to the Crusaders.
Man of the match: One overcooked restart aside, Dan Carter did not put a foot wrong all day.
For the Crusaders:
Tries: G.Whitelock, Crotty, Fruean
Cons: Carter 3
Pens: Carter 4
For the Blues:
Pens: Brett 4
Drop goal: Brett
Crusaders: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read, 7 George Whitelock, 6 Richie McCaw (c), 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Ti'i Paulo, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 Peter Borlase, 18 Isaac Ross, 19 Jonathan Poff, 20 Kahn Fotuali'i, 21 Adam Whitelock, 22 Colin Slade.
Blues: 15 Paul Williams, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Rudi Wulf, 10 Stephen Brett, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Viliami Ma'afu, 7 Serge Lilo, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Anthony Boric, 4 Kurtis Haiu, 3 John Afoa, 2 Keven Mealamu (c), 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Charlie Faumuina, 18 Filo Paulo, 19 Tom Chamberlain, 20 Chris Smylie, 21 Daniel Kirkpatrick, 22 George Pisi.
Referee: Keith Brown (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Vinny Munro (New Zealand), Josh Noonan (New Zealand)
TMO: Kane McBride (New Zealand)