HAMILTON, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 28: Aaron Cruden of the Chiefs is tackled during the round three Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Crusaders at Waikato Stadium on February 28, 2015 in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

A Sonny Bill Williams-inspired Waikato Chiefs demolished New Zealand rivals the Canterbury Crusaders 40-16 to maintain their perfect start to the Super 15 season.

The Chiefs ran in five tries to one, with Williams scoring one and setting up two more as the North Island side made it three wins from three.

It was the Chiefs' biggest ever win over the seven-time champions, confirming they are back to their best after winning back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013.

The Crusaders, finalists last year, struggled to cope with Waikato's combination of speed and physicality, falling to their second defeat in three starts.

They were missing All Blacks Dan Carter, Israel Dagg and Owen Franks.

But they still fielded a strong side and coach Todd Blackadder will be looking for answers as his team licks its wounds during a bye next week.

Code-hopper Williams had a outstanding game for the Chiefs, including an intercept, a one-handed try and several pinpoint-accurate passes.

Waikato conceded three early penalties and were trailing 6-0 with a man down after 10 minutes when winger James Lowe was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle on Scott Barrett.

But they shrugged off the disadvantage as Aaron Cruden found a gap to spark a move than culminated in Sonny Bill Williams spinning away from a tackler and stretching over the try-line.

The Crusaders could not lift in a similar manner when Matt Todd was sin-binned, allowing Augustine Pulu in for a try from a Chiefs driving maul.

Waikato extended their lead when Williams intercepted a stray pass and set up a try for Charlie Ngatai, going into the break up 22-9.

Andy Ellis kept the Crusaders in touch with a try after the restart, fooling the Chiefs' defence with a dummy after a patient build up.

But a period of sustained Chiefs pressure caused uncharacteristic panic in the Crusaders defence, when they tried to run the ball from their own try-line instead of kicking it clear.

The result was a turnover that led to Tom Marshall scoring the Chiefs' fourth try, blowing out the lead to 33-16.

It turned into a rout when a Williams' pass released Lowe down the wing for a fifth, and the Crusaders were lucky not to concede another before the siren sounded. – AFP