TOKYO – The Crusaders juggernaut stormed to a record 17th consecutive victory with a 38-22 demolition of the Hurricanes in their Super Rugby clash in Christchurch on Saturday.
The defending champions scored six tries to three and held an impressive 24-0 lead at half-time in the largely one-sided encounter with the score distorted by two late Hurricanes tries when the result was beyond doubt.
For most of the game the Crusaders feasted on stolen lineout ball, Matt Todd dominated the breakdown, and their All Blacks-laden Crusaders pack kept the Hurricanes eight under constant pressure.
Todd, the Crusaders skipper, said the dominant first half was the making of the game.
"We came out with the attitude to attack and we scored some good tries which was pleasing. The second half got a bit messy," he said.
The Crusaders haven't been beaten since back-to-back losses away to the Hurricanes and Highlanders a year ago and have overtaken the previous record of 16 wins set by the Crusaders of 2005-06.
They also extended their impressive home run to 21 matches without defeat in three years.
Two of the Crusaders tries to Scott Barrett came when they departed from their renowned lineout drive and used a new tactic of peeling off to move play infield.
"Obviously teams know we like to drive so we have to have variations off that and it's always nice when stuff you work on at training comes off on game day," Todd said.
Hurricanes skipper Dane Coles described it as "a good, old-fashioned lesson in how to play Super Rugby. They've set the benchmark."
The Hurricanes, champions in 2016 and semi-finalists for the past two years, received few chances, and those they did get were quickly nullified.
When they chose a scrum instead of a kickable shot at goal midway through the second half they were pushed off their own ball.
The new lineout move for the Crusaders saw Barrett open the scoring in both halves.
Richie Mo'unga also scored twice with his first resulting from delicate work down the sideline by Manasa Mataele who managed to keep his outside foot off the ground long enough to get his pass away as he was being tackled over the touchline.
From the restart, the Crusaders mounted an 80-metre counter attack which resulted in Jordan Taufua's try and Mo'unga scored his second after the Crusaders opted for a scrum rather than a close-range shot at goal on the stroke of half-time.
As the game loosened up in the second half the Hurricanes came back with two early tries to Ben Lam and Wes Goosen.
The Crusaders responded with one to George Bridge before Lam and TJ Perenara added two more for the Hurricanes.
Meanwhile in Japan, Israel Folau made history as the Waratahs inflicted a nail-biting 31-30 defeat on the Sunwolves, who are fighting for their Super Rugby lives.
The Wallabies star was a constant threat in Tokyo, scoring twice in the first half to finish a free-flowing game as Australia's highest try-scorer in the competition with a career total of 58 and counting.AFP