The Canterbury Crusaders shattered records in an awesome 57-29 destruction of the Queensland Reds to send an ominous warning to their Super 15 rivals in Brisbane on Sunday.
The seven-time Super Rugby champions cut loose in the second half after trailing 17-16 at half-time to post six tries to four to overwhelm the disorganised Reds.
The Crusaders totted up 50 points in Australia for the first time in Super Rugby and it was the most points scored by a New Zealand team in Brisbane in Super Rugby.
Fly-half Colin Slade cashed in on the rout contributing 27 points from six conversions and five penalties from his 11 goal attempts.
It was the much-improved Crusaders' fifth straight win and their bonus point victory lifted them to fourth on the overall standings and second behind the Waikato Chiefs in the New Zealand conference.
The Crusaders stormed to victory in the second half scoring 31 unanswered points before the Reds registered their first points of the half in the 64th minute.
Both the Crusaders wingers Nemani Nadolo and Johnny McNicholl scored two tries with others going to loose-head prop Wyatt Crockett and number eight Luke Whitelock.
The Reds, who tumbled to their fifth straight defeat, finished with a bonus point for four tries but the pressure will continue to build on their coach Richard Graham after their humiliating afternoon before their own supporters.
For the Crusaders it's onwards and upwards and they host competition leaders the Coastal Sharks next weekend in what could prove a significant match in the context of the season.
After the Sharks' drab kick-obsessed loss to the ACT Brumbies in Canberra on Saturday, the Crusaders produced some exhilarating attack and ran the Reds off their feet with some superb running rugby.
“We made a conscious effort to look after the ball more in the second half and thankfully we scored more points,” Crusaders captain Ryan Crotty said.
“It's been a process of finding our game and we had the chance to go over to South Africa and spend a lot of time together and work really hard and that momentum has carried on since we came home.”
In another plus for the Crusaders, All Black skipper Richie McCaw played out the 80 minutes as he works his way back to full fitness after two months out with a broken thumb.
The record defeat is likely to have reverberations in the Reds camp as their nightmare season continues to plumb new depths.
“Two soft tries at the start of the second half cost us and isn't good enough,” Reds skipper James Horwill said.
“We didn't do what we said we would do at half-time. In the second half we didn't chase hard enough on our kicks and allowed them time and space and allowed them to dictate terms.”
The Reds now face a crucial home match next week against the Melbourne Rebels to get off the bottom of the Australian conference.– AFP