Forwards lead Crusaders to an easy victory

12:10, Jul 13 2014
Richie McCaw
The expression of Richie McCaw's face says it all after the Crusaders missed seven penalties in an 18-10 loss to the Chiefs.
Israel Dagg
Crusaders fullback Israel Dagg runs at Liam Messam during the season opener.
Nafi Tuitavake
Crusaders wing Nafi Tuitavake runs away from Chiefs lock Brodie Retallick.
Crusaders fans
Almost 17,000 Crusaders fans packed into Christchurch Stadium for the season opener.
Tim Perry
Crusaders prop Tim Perry is taken down by Charlie Faumuina.
Richie McCaw
Richie McCaw eyes up a tackle on George Moala before leaving the field injured.
Colin Slade
Colin Slade celebrates his first half try against the Blues.
Colin Slade and Reynold Lee-Lo
Crusaders Colin Slade (right) and Reynold Lee-Lo fail to secure the ball under pressure from George Moala.
Crusaders 2014 season
Stormers captain Jean de Villiers and the Crusaders' Kieran Read await a referee's decision during their clash in Christchurch.
Crusaders 2014 season
Johnny McNicholl of the Crusaders celebrates the final whistle following his side's comeback win over the Stormers.
Crusaders 2014 season
The Crusaders cheerleaders get the crowd going before kick-off against the Stormers.
Crusaders 2014 season
Sam Whitelock reaches highest to claim lineout ball for the Crusaders against the Chiefs.
Kieran Read
Captain Kieran Read chats to his forward pack during a break against the Rebels.
Israel Dagg
Israel Dagg attempts to get himself out of the grasp of a Melbourne Rebel.
Israel Dagg
Israel Dagg unleashes a punt downfield.
Colin Slade
Crusaders first-five Colin Slade fires a pass to his outside backs.
Ben Funnell
Crusaders Kieran Read (left) and Nafi Tuitavake rush to congratulate hooker Ben Funnell after scoring.
2014 Crusaders season
Wyatt Crockett of the Crusaders tries to offload under pressure from Jeremy Thrush of the Hurricanes.
2014 Crusaders season
Ryan Crotty makes a break for the Crusaders against the Hurricanes in Christchurch.
2014 Crusaders season
The Crusaders players look dejected after losing to the Hurricanes at the death.
2014 Crusaders season
Nemani Nadolo makes a charge down the wing for the Crusaders against the Hurricanes.
2014 Crusaders season
The Crusaders' Kieron Fonotia and Owen Franks get to grips with Schalk van der Merwe of the Lions.
2014 Crusaders season
Nepo Laulala of Crusaders tackling Faf de Klerk of Lions during the teams' clash at Ellis Park.
Crusaders 2014 season
George Whitelock and Matt Todd of Crusaders smash Lions No 8 Warren Whitley.
Crusaders
Crusaders lock Sam Whitelock takes a charge at the Lions defence.
Crusaders 2014 season
Crusaders No 10 Colin Slade goes on a run against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
Crusaders 2014 season
Crusaders halfback Willi Heinz floats a pass out in his teams clash with the Cheetahs.
Crusaders 2014 season
Crusaders captain Kieran Read breaks away from the back of a maul against the Cheetahs.
Crusaders 2014 season
Ryan Crotty swats the Cheetahs defence out of his way in Bloemfontein.
Crusaders 2014 season
Quade Cooper of the Reds is tackled by Wyatt Crockett of the Crusaders.
Crusaders 2014 season
Richie McCaw of the Crusaders takes the lineout during the round 13 Super Rugby match between the Reds and the Crusaders.
Crusaders 2014 season
Luke Whitelock of the Crusaders breaks away from the defence to score a try during the round 13 Super Rugby match between the Reds and the Crusaders.
Crusaders 2014 season
Johnny McNicholl of the Crusaders celebrates with team mate Israel Dagg after scoring a try during the round 13 Super Rugby match between the Reds and the Crusaders.
Crusaders 2014 season
Johnny McNicholl of the Crusaders scores a try during the round 13 Super Rugby match between the Reds and the Crusaders.
Crusaders 2014 season
Nemani Nandolo of the Crusaders storms down the sideline during the Chiefs and Crusaders Super Rugby match.
Crusaders 2014 season
Brodie Retallick of the Chiefs and Samuel Whitelock of the Crusaders wrestle off the ball during the Chiefs and Crusaders Super Rugby match.
Crusaders 2014 season
Willi Heinz of the Crusaders in action during the Chiefs and Crusaders Super Rugby match.
Crusaders 2014 season
Samuel Whitelock of the Crusaders has a word with a team-mate during the Chiefs and Crusaders Super Rugby match.
Crusaders 2014 season
Pat McCabe of the Brumbies is tackled by Israel Dagg of the Crusaders.
Crusaders 2014 season
Colin Slade of the Crusaders kicks a conversion during the round 12 Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Brumbies.
Crusaders 2014 season
Sam Whitelock of the Crusaders is tackled during the round 12 Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Brumbies.
Crusaders 2014 season
Nemani Nadolo of the Crusaders dives over to score a try during the round 12 Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Brumbies.
Julian Savea
Julian Savea celebrates the Hurricanes' win over the Crusaders during their Round 17 Super Rugby match at Westpac Stadium in Wellington.
Dan Carter
Dan Carter of the Crusaders looks to make a break against the Hurricanes during his first Super Rugby appearance of the season.
Ryan Crotty
Ryan Crotty, captain of the Crusaders, is tackled by Ardie Savea of the Hurricanes during their Super Rugby clash at Westpac Stadium in Wellington.
Andy Ellis
Andy Ellis of the Crusaders and Dane Coles of the Hurricanes scuffle during their round 17 Super Rugby match.
05-CHP-CruVBlu1
Nemani Nadolo crashes over the line for the Crusaders under pressure from a stern Blues defence.
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Crusaders centre Ryan Crotty has a cut at the Blues' line with Andy Ellis in support.
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Crusaders wing Nemani Nadolo on the charge against the Blues at AMI Stadium in Christchurch.
Ma'a Nonu
Blues star Ma'a Nonu is tackled by Dan Carter of the Crusaders during their round 18 Super Rugby match in Christchurch.
Andy Ellis
Andy Ellis, centre, of the Crusaders is tackled by Blues players Tony Woodcock (left) and Luke Braid (right) during his side's win in Christchurch.
Dominic Bird
Crusaders lock Dominic Bird powers through a number of would-be Blues defenders at AMI Stadium in Christchurch.
Nemani Nadolo
Nemani Nadolo of the Crusaders dives over to score a try against the Blues in round 18.
Dan Carter
Crusaders second-five Dan Carter is tackled by All Blacks team-mate and Blues prop Tony Woodcock.
Jerome Kaino
Jerome Kaino of the Blues is tackled by Andy Ellis of the Crusaders during their round 18 Super Rugby match in Christchurch.
Colin Slade
Colin Slade shows his courage on a scything run against the Highlanders in round 19 of Super Rugby.
Colin Slade
Crusaders wing Nemani Nadolo fights for the ball in midair with Highlanders opposite Richard Buckman.
Colin Slade
New Zealand's top first five eighth Dan Carter on the break against the Highlanders.
Colin Slade
Israel Dagg shows his deft touch, unloading the ball while aerial in the tackle of Highlanders wing Patrick Osbourne.
Colin Slade
A Crusaders horseman spurs cheers from the Christchurch crowd ahead of their clash with the Highlanders.

All the stars aligned for the Crusaders tonight as they scored four tries to grab a rare bonus-point victory to overwhelm the Highlanders 34-8 in Christchurch.

While the Crusaders must wait to see if the Sharks can overtake their second-place on the Super Rugby log - they will need to thump the Stormers in Cape Town tomorrow morning - the Highlanders have been forced to prepare for a sudden-death play-off match next weekend.

Just where that game will be played will be decided by the Sharks-Stormers result. If the Crusaders finish second they will earn a bye before hosting a semifinal the following weekend.

2014 Highlanders season
Ben Smith of the Highlanders, right, charges at the Blues' Piri Weepu.
2014 Highlanders season
Patrick Osborne looks to offload against the Blues in Dunedin.
2014 Highlanders season
Malakai Fekitoa looks to evade the Blues' tacklers.
2014 Highlanders season
Highlanders halfback general Aaron Smith barks out the orders.
Aaron Smith
Aaron Smith fires out a pass from a ruck to Lima Sopoaga.
Shaun Treeby
Highlanders second-five Shaun Treeby sends a skip-pass wide against the Chiefs.
Fumiaki Tanaka
The Highlanders' disappointment is written on the face of replacement halfback Fumiaki Tanaka.
Richard Buckman
Highlanders back Richard Buckman misjudges a high-ball against the Chiefs.
John Hardie
Highlanders No 7 John Hardie runs around his opposite Tanerau Latimer.
Kurt Baker
Highlanders wing Kurt Baker tries to break a Force tackle.
Malakai Fekitoa
Elliott Dixon hugs Malakai Fekitoa after his second half try at Dunedin Stadium.
Nasi Manu
Nasi Manu charges into a Western Force defender.
Shaun Treeby
Shaun Treeby reacts after his first-half try from an Aaron Smith grubber kick.
Fumiaki Tanaka
Replacement halfback Fumiaki Tanaka sends the Highlanders' backline on its way.
2014 Highlanders season
Shane Christie gets the ball away under pressure from the Blues' defence.
2014 Highlanders season
Kane Hames of the Highlanders makes a break against the Blues at Eden Park in Auckland.
2014 Highlanders season
Lima Sopoaga spins a pass out against the Blues in Auckland.
2014 Highlanders season
Joe Wheeler of the Highlanders, left, and Ma'a Nonu of the Blues embrace after the full time whistle at Eden Park.
2014 Highlanders season
Ben Smith tests out the Rebels' defence in Dunedin.
2014 Highlanders season
Highlander Kurt Baker is hit hard in a tackle by Sean McMahon of the Rebels.
Highlanders 2014 season
Richard Buckman of the Highlanders and Bryce Hegarty of the Melbourne Rebels dance in mid air for possession of the ball.
Highlanders 2014 season
Kiwi born Jason Woodward of the Rebels fends off the Highlanders' Shaun Treeby during their teams' clash in Dunedin.
Highlanders 2014 season
Gareth Evan, with the support of Liam Coltman, makes a charge for the Highlanders against the Bulls.
Highlanders 2014 season
Malakai Fekitoa of the Highlanders on the attack against the Bulls.
Highlanders 2014 season
A grizzled Brad Thorn charges at Bulls lock Phillip Van Der Merwe.
Highlanders 2014 season
Jan Serfontein makes a break for the Bulls in Dunedin as the Highlanders defends scramble back.
Highlanders 2014 season
Malakai Fekitoa of the Highlanders looking to attack SP Marais of the Sharks.
Highlanders 2014 season
Lima Sopoaga of the Highlanders in action during the Super Rugby match between the Sharks and Highlanders.
Highlanders 2014 season
Lima Sopoaga of the Highlanders during the Super Rugby match between the Sharks and Highlanders.
Highlanders 2014 season
Ben Smith of the Highlanders taking a high ball.
Highlanders 2014 season
Aaron Smith of the Highlanders in action during the Super Rugby match between the Stormers and Highlanders.
Highlanders 2014 season
Aaron Smith of the Highlanders in action.
Highlanders 2014 season
Duane Vermeulen of the Stormers in action during the Super Rugby match between the Stormers and Highlanders.
Highlanders 2014 season
Kurt Coleman of the Stormers during the Super Rugby match between the Stormers and Highlanders.
Highlanders 2014 season
Gareth Evans of the Highlanders on the charge during the Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Lions.
Highlanders 2014 season
Malakai Fekitoa of the Highlanders on the attack during the Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Lions.
Highlanders 2014 season
Hayden Parker of the Highlanders kicks a penalty during the Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Lions .
Highlanders 2014 season
Malakai Fekitoa of the Highlanders puts in a fend during Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Lions.
Tanerau Latimer
Tanerau Latimer of the Chiefs makes a break during his side's Super Rugby clash with the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
Bundee Aki
Bundee Aki of the Chiefs looks to take the high ball during his side's 29-25 loss to the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Tim Nanai-Williams
Tim Nanai-Williams scores a try for the Chiefs during their round 17 Super Rugby match against the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
Gareth Anscombe
Gareth Anscombe of Chiefs on the attack during his side's round 17 Super Rugby match against the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Tom Franklin
Tom Franklin of the Highlanders on the charge during his side's round 17 Super Rugby match against the Chiefs at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
Liam Sopoaga
Liam Sopoaga of the Highlanders prepares to pass the ball during his side's clash with the Chiefs at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
Sekope Kepu
Waratahs prop Sekope Kepu scores a try in the round 18 match against the Highlanders at Sydney's Allianz Stadium.
 Israel Folau
HARD TO STOP: The Crusaders will keeping a close watch on Waratahs dangerman Israel Folau, pictured fending off the Highlanders’ Canterbury wing Patrick Osborne.
Alofa Alofa
Waratahs winger Alofa Alofa offloads the ball in a tackle during his side's 44-16 win over the Highlanders.
Bernard Foley
Waratahs five-eighth Bernard Foley is tackled by Highlanders centre Malakai Fekitoa.
Sekope Kepu
Waratahs prop Sekope Kepu celebrates scoring a try against the Highlanders.
Highlanders fans
Highlanders fans cheer on their team in Christchurch in their round 19 Super Rugby game against the Crusaders.
Highlanders fans
Highlanders lock Elliot Dixon reaches high to claim the ball in a lineout against the Crusaders.
Highlanders fans
Shane Christie encourages his Highlanders teammates in their round 19 Super Rugby match against the Crusaders.
Highlanders fans
Highlanders prop Chris King looks on in disgust as the Crusaders look to snare three points in their round 19 Super Rugby clash.
Highlanders fans
Shane Christie holds on for all money as he tries to bring down Kieron Fonotia in a tackle in the Highlanders' round 19 match against the Crusaders.
Marcell Coetzee
The Sharks celebrate Marcell Coetzee's second-half try against the Highlanders.
Malakai Fekitoa
Malakai Fekitoa's first-half try got the Highlanders back in the match after trailing 13-3 early.
Kane Hames
The Highlanders pile on prop Kane Hames after his try after the siren in the first half.
Lima Sopoaga
Lima Sopoaga kicks a first-half penalty against the Sharks.

Unlike last the previous round, when they used bullocking wing Nemani Nadolo to set-up their win over the Blues, the Crusaders used the might of their lineout drive to snare maximum competition points.

Three tries, two to flanker Matt Todd and the other to replacement hooker Corey Flynn, were recorded from the set-piece drives while Nadolo grabbed the other in open play.

Even if the Highlanders had been able to field talismanic fullback Ben Smith, who didn't play because of a nasty leg infection, it is unlikely he would have been able to reverse their fortunes.

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TRY TIME: Crusaders flanker Matt Todd goes over for one of his two tries against the Highlanders.
TRY TIME: Crusaders flanker Matt Todd goes over for one of his two tries against the Highlanders.

Getting precious momentum proved a difficult task for the Highlanders much of the evening - one bright spot was the try to livewire wing Richard Buckman in the second spell - and South African referee Craig Joubert wasn't unafraid to cane them with penalties for ruck transgressions.

By the 45th minute, when Todd had snaffled his second try to push his side out to a 22-3 lead, it was obvious the Highlanders were in deep strife.

From there little went right and even though wing Patrick Osborne and centre Malakai Fekitoa tried to inject themselves into the attack the opportunities repeatedly dried-up.

So confident were the Crusaders that the game was safe that coach Todd Blackadder hooked No 8 Kieran Read, halfback Andy Ellis and his entire front row before the clock ticked past the 55-minute mark.

The Highlanders must have had the hopeless feeling of sliding down an icy scree slope as it became apparent their hopes of winning the New Zealand conference, and securing a home berth in the quarterfinals, quickly slipped away.

Dan Carter might have missed four kicks, including a sitter of a penalty, but that was where his charity largely stopped: his four penalties gave the home side a comfortable buffer and then they went hunting for tries.

Watching the Highlanders scrums and lineouts get pulled apart have caused the hardy types watching the game back in heartland bastions such as Poolburn and Orepuki squirm with horror.

The southern men's lineout struggles began with Liam Coltman (who was replaced by Ged Robinson at halftime) struggling to hit his jumpers as the Crusaders used Read and Sam Whitelock to compete on his throws and then the scrum began to crumble.

One area where the Highlanders showed some fire was in defence; for 39 minutes the visitors repelled wave after wave of attack and it wasn't until Todd plunged over for his first try, just before the halftime hooter, that their line was finally breached.

Captain Read's decision to order Slade to nudge the ball into touch, instead of pointing to the sticks following a kickable penalty, led to Todd going over.

The Crusaders led 17-3 at the break and never looked like succumbing.

AS IT HAPPENED

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