Crusaders just too good for the Reds

02:27, Jul 21 2013
Dan Carter
Dan Carter flings it wide.
Crusaders
Crusaders win the lineout against the Blues at Eden Park.
Crusaders
The Crusaders gather behind their goal-line after conceding a try to the Blues.
Robbie Fruean
Robbie Fruean on the charge for the Crusaders against the Blues.
Kieran Read
Kieran Read looks on disconsolately after the Crusaders one-point loss to the Hurricanes.
Ryan Crotty
Ryan Crotty makes a break for the Crusaders.
Israel Dagg
Israel Dagg (centre) celebrates with team-mates after scoring against the Hurricanes.
Dan Carter
Dan Carter chases down the loose ball.
Crusaders v Bulls
Robbie Fruean celebrates his try as the Crusaders finally get a win this season over the Bulls.
Crusaders v Bulls
Ryan Crotty makes a break during the Crusaders win over the Bulls.
Crusaders v Bulls
Tom Marshall fends off a Bulls tackle.
Crusaders v Bulls
Zac Guildford watches from the stands as the Crusaders beat the Bulls.
Crusaders v Bulls
Captain Kieran Read was a standout in the Crusaders win over the Bulls in Christchurch.
Zac Guildford runs the ball against the Kings.
Zac Guildford runs the ball against the Kings.
Crusaders vs Kings
Dan Carter is a tackled by a Kings player.
Crusaders vs Kings
The Crusaders score a try against the Kings.
The Crusaders score a try against the Kings
The Crusaders score a try against the Kings
Crusaders 2013 Season
The Crusaders celebrate the win during the Super Rugby match between DHL Stormers and Crusaders in Cape Town.
Crusaders 2013 Season
Crusaders celebrate the try of Matt Todd during the Super Rugby match between DHL Stormers and Crusaders in Cape Town.
Crusaders 2013 Season
Tom Marshall of the Crusaders during the Super Rugby match between DHL Stormers and Crusaders in Cape Town.
Crusaders 2013 Season
Matt Todd of the Crusaders scores a try during the Super Rugby match between DHL Stormers and Crusaders in Cape Town.
Crusaders v Sharks
Owen Franks is tackled during the Crusaders 21-17 loss to the Sharks in Durban.
Crusaders v Sharks
Andy Ellis scores a try during the Crusaders' loss to the Sharks.
Crusaders v Sharks
Franco van der Merwe of the Sharks out-jumps Sam Whitelock.
Crusaders v Sharks
The Sharks celebrate their win over the Crusaders in Durban.
Crusaders v Force
Israel Dagg is tackled by the Force's Junior Raolea.
Crusaders v Force
Sam Whitelock breaks a line during the Crusaders' loss to the Force.
Crusaders v Force
Luke Romano dives over for a try which would later be disallowed.
Crusaders v Force
Robbie Fruean fends off Kyle Godwin as the Crusaders went down to the Force in Perth.
Crusaders gallery
The Crusaders celebrate after scoring a try against the Highlanders.
Crusaders gallery
Luke Whitelock charges into the Highlanders defence.
Crusaders gallery
Israel Dagg tries to evade the tackle.
Crusaders gallery
Zac Guildford chases after the loose ball.
Crusaders gallery
Owen Franks of the Crusaders charges into Nic Stirzaker of the Rebels.
Crusaders gallery
Ben Funnell is taken in the tackle by the Rebels.
Crusaders gallery
Dan Carter made his return to action for the Crusaders against the Rebels.
Crusaders gallery
George Whitelock leads the Crusaders on to AMI Stadium for the game against the Rebels.
Crusaders gallery
Dan Carter is taken in the tackle.
Crusaders gallery
Ryan Crotty on the charge against the Brumbies.
Crusaders gallery
Sam Whitelock gets a pass away in the tackle.
Crusaders gallery
Robbie Fruean (left) and Joe Moody celebrate after the Crusaders win over the Brumbies in Canberra.
Crusaders 2013 gallery
Andy Ellis talks to the crowd after being presented with a mere in recognition of playing 100 games for the Crusaders.
Crusaders 2013 gallery
Dan Carter unleashes a kick for the Crusaders against the Blues.
Crusaders 2013 gallery
Sam Whitelock takes breather during the clash against the Blues.
Crusaders 2013 gallery
Crusaders fans show their support for the team in the clash against the Blues.
Crusaders 2013
Ben Funnell spins the ball wide against the Chiefs.
Crusaders 2013
Zac Guildford (centre) and the Crusaders lament their loss to the Chiefs.
Crusaders 2013
Andy Ellis surveys his options from the base of the scrum against the Crusaders.
Crusaders 2013
Tom Taylor attempts a shot at goal against the Chiefs.
Crusaders season 2013
Dominic Bird of the Crusaders attended to by the team doctor during his side's Round 16 clash with the Waratahs in Christchurch.
Crusaders season 2013
Zac Guildford of the Crusaders passes the ball back to Kieran Read under pressure from Waratah Kane Douglas.
Crusaders season 2013
Luke Romano wins a lineout for the Crusaders against the Waratahs.
Crusaders season 2013
Michael Hopper of the Waratahs makes a charge against the Crusaders at AMI Stadium.
Super Rugby Gallery
Willi Heinz of the Crusaders is tackled by Ben Smith of the Highlanders during the round 18 Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Crusaders.
Super Rugby Gallery
Tom Marshall of the Crusaders is dumped by Ma'a Nonu of the Highlanders during the round 18 Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Crusaders.
Super Rugby Gallery
Highlanders player Ben Smith jumping in the air for the ball with Crusaders Matt Todd & Dan Carter.
Super Rugby Gallery
Highlanders player Hosea Gear being tackled by Crusaders players Dan Carter (left) & George Whitelock.
Super Rugby Gallery
Sam Whitelock of the Crusaders is tackled by Kade Poki of the Highlanders during the round 18 Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Crusaders.
Crusaders vs Chiefs
Crusaders fullback Israel Dagg celebrates.
Crusaders vs Chiefs
Crusaders first five-eighth Dan Carter.
Crusaders vs Chiefs
Crusaders Kieran Read on his way to the try-line.
Crusaders vs Chiefs
Kieran Read runs out at AMI stadium.
Crusaders vs Chiefs
Crusaders fullback Israel Dagg takes off.
Crusaders vs Chiefs
Crusaders centre Ryan Crotty tries to escape Chiefs flanker Sam Cane.
Crusaders gallery 2013
Kieran Read leads the Crusaders on to AMI Stadium for their final regular season game against the Hurricanes.
Crusaders gallery 2013
Halfback Willi Heinz gets a kick away against the Hurricanes.
Crusaders gallery 2013
Brothers Ben (left) and Owen Franks catch up after going head to head for the Hurricanes and Crusaders.
Crusaders gallery 2013
Dan Carter gestures to an assistant referee during the game against the Hurricanes.
Crusaders vs Reds
Ryan Crotty dives over to score for the Crusaders.
Crusaders vs Reds
Dan Carter strolls over the line to score a try.
Crusaders vs Reds
Richie McCaw looks on from the Crusaders bench during his side's Super Rugby qualifier with the Reds.
Crusaders vs Reds
Sam Whitelock takes on the Reds defence.
Chiefs vs Crusaders
Liam Messam takes on the Crusaders defence.
Chiefs vs Crusaders
Lelia Masaga has a cut at the Crusaders defence.
Chiefs vs Crusaders
Asaeli Tikoirotuma is downed by Owen Franks.

Forget the Richie McCaw comeback - all the credit for tonight's 38-9 Super Rugby qualifying final victory over the Reds belongs to his Crusaders teammates.

Like a ruthless matador the Crusaders combined courage, an iron-will and finesse to skewer the Reds at AMI Stadium and advance to the semifinals.

All Blacks captain McCaw finally made his long-awaited return to the Crusaders in the 66th minute but the damage had been inflicted well before the flanker arrived on the field.

The Crusaders' four-try victory was built around pressure in all facets - especially in the rucks - and that led to the Reds' playmakers Will Genia and Quade Cooper being rendered powerless.

If anyone was going to play a major role in the Reds winning this it was Cooper but his performance lacked any of the spark or desire required to turn his side's fortunes.

With halfback Genia rocked back on his heels for much of the match, first five-eighth Cooper was often too static when he receiving the pill and he rarely wanted to engage the defence.

That summed up the Reds night; their line-breaks were too rare, they were unable to shut down Crusaders offloading in the tackles and by halftime, when they trailed 21-6, the game was effectively won by the home side.

The Crusaders' opponent in the semi will be determined by the result of tomorrow night's qualifying final between the Brumbies and Cheetahs in Canberra.

A Brumbies win requires the Crusaders to make a short flight to Hamilton to play the Chiefs next weekend.

However, if the Cheetahs upset the Australian conference winners the Crusaders must fly to Pretoria to confront the Bulls at their citadel of Loftus Versfeld.

That is a scenario no-one in the Crusaders camp wants.

Not only would the long journey gobble-up some precious recovery time, they would also have to snap a losing streak in Pretoria that stretches back to 2009.

But if they do have to travel to Pretoria, they will take great heart from this effort.

There haven't been an abundance of set-piece tries for the Crusaders this season but the way centre Ryan Crotty scythed through the Reds' midfield proved the strike power has always existed.

The Crusaders, no doubt sensing an opportunity to expose the revamped Reds centre pairing of Jono Lance and Ben Tapuai, set-up an attacking formation from a scrum inside their opponents' 22m and employed Dan Carter to flick a short ball to Crotty. 

Crotty made no mistake; he ran a straight line, exposing the inaccurate defence of Tapuai and steamed across in Genia's tackle.

Backs running clinical lines is one thing but is there a better sight than a tight forward galloping at full speed?

Sam Whitelock had the 14,000 Crusaders fans howling with enthusiasm. The bearded second rower charged down the middle of the park, shrugged several tacklers and created the ruck that led to Dan Carter's try in the left-hard corner.

In the second half loosehead prop Wyatt Crockett proved his skill-set is just as sharp; having accepted a lovely pass from Israel Dagg he accelerated into space, offloaded - shades of Sonny Bill Williams here - to Matt Todd who put his right wing Tom Marshall over for another try.

It wasn't only the Reds inability to keep the Crusaders ball runners from battering their line that proved an issue. Their set-pieces were shaky, also.

Crusaders tighthead Owen Franks did a number on Greg Holmes in one scrum, earning Carter his first penalty shot of the night, and the Reds lineout blew several promising attacking chances and the sloppy delivery to Genia allowed him to be scragged before unloading to Cooper.

Earlier in the week Reds coaching boss Ewen McKenzie warned it would be foolish to underestimate his forwards and, maybe, the Crusaders took his sermon on board.

Because the red and black pack did anything but sit back and allow the Queenslanders big men make easy yards.

Even when the Reds held possession for repeated phases in the second quarter they were unable to crack the iron-like wall before them and George Whitelock eventually made them pay by grabbing a vital steal.

You get the feeling Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder, who yet to win his first title as coach since taking over in 2009, would do anything for his side to replicate that performance next weekend.

"You couldn't have a written a better script to be honest. It was really set-up by the attitude at the start of the week,'' Blackadder said.

"We have had our highs and lows (this season) and at times we haven't fired but the commitment is there. This a really determined group.''

McCaw, he added, is unlikely to start next week with the form of Matt Todd being so strong in the No 7 jersey.

In addition to making the semis for the 12th consecutive season the Crusaders had another reason to rejoice.

By knocking over the Reds they have avenged their heartbreaking defeat in the 2011 grand final in Brisbane.

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Crusaders vs Reds
GOOD SCORE: Crusaders players celebrate Dan Carter's try.

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