Crusaders' first-half blitz too much for Stormers
SUPER RUGBY REPORT: The Crusaders eased past the Stormers, winning 57-24 in a sublime display of skill - to reclaim top spot on the standings.
The Crusaders blew the Stormers away with a 26-point blitz in 12 minutes late in the first half.
Although the men from Cape Town briefly held the lead at the start, four tries just before the break ended the match as a contest.
The Stormers managed three second-half tries, but it was scant consolation for the visitors - who where thoroughly outplayed by the seven-time champions.
The biggest concern for the visitors is how predictable the Stormers were - both on attack and defence - allowing the Crusaders to put their full range of brilliant skills on show in an entertaining display.
The Stormers will also sweat over the injury of young midfielder Daniel du Plessis, who went to the hospital for scans after leaving the field early in the first half with what appears to be a serious shoulder injury.
George Bridge bagged a hat-trick, Kieran Read added two tries and Michael Alaalatoa, Pete Samu and Manasa Mataele also made their way to the tryline as the Crusaders mounted an eight-try stampede to remain unbeaten after eight matches.
It was a record score for the Crusaders over the Stormers and was built on a spree of outlandish off-loads which saw the Crusaders race to a 36-3 lead by half-time.
The Stormers, who have now suffered back-to-back losses after falling to the Lions last week, started out determined to record their first ever win in Christchurch.
They dominated the first 10 minutes and led 3-0 courtesy of a Robert du Preez penalty.
But the first time the Crusaders were able to mount an attack of consequence, Bridge scored the first of his tries to open the floodgates.
"I don't think we touched the ball for the first 10-15 minutes but when we did get our hands on it we used it well," captain Sam Whitelock said, but adding it was not a complete performance.
"There's a couple of things we need to work on. They're a big side, big forwards and they put us under some pressure, stole a couple of line-outs."
Stormers captain Eben Etzebeth saw too many errors in his side's performance.
"In the second half for the first 10 minutes we played some good footy but in the end they just blew us off the park," he said.
"Back-to-back defeats is not what we wanted. We have to go back to the drawing board."
As the Crusaders shredded the Stormers defensive wall, Bridge completed his treble in the space of 20 minutes.
Read closed the first half with a try in the left corner then one in the right and his night was done with Crusaders coach Scott Robertson benching the All Blacks back row forward for the second half.
But the Stormers were not done. They opened up the second half with a 60-metre intercept try to Cheslin Kolbe followed by a try to left wing Bjorn Basson with conversions from du Preez closing the gap to 36-17.
That woke the Crusaders from their third quarter slumber and in a three-minute burst Michael Alaalatoa crashed from close range before Pete Samu produced an 80-metre intercept try with Mo'unga's conversion bringing up the 50 points.
Frans Malherbe and Manasa Mataele traded tries in the closing stages.
The Crusaders next week head to South Africa to play the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein, while the Stormers play the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Man of the match: You can almost pick the entire Crusaders team and we were tempted. For starters, Kieran Read required just 40 minutes to prove why he is the best Mo.8 in the world. However, we eventually went with Crusaders flyhalf Richie Mo'unga, who reminded the All Black selectors of just how much depth they do have in the No.10 channel.
For the Crusaders:
Tries: Bridge 3, Read 2, Alaalatoa, Samu, Mataele
Cons: Mo'unga 7
For the Stormers:
Tries: Kolbe, Basson, Malherbe
Cons: Du Preez 3
Pen: Du Preez
Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Seta Tamanivalu, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock (captain), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Manasa Mataele.
Stormers: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Dan du Plessis, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Chris van Zyl, 4 Eben Etzebeth (captain), 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Jacobus Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Oliver Kebble, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Jan de Klerk, 20 Cobus Wiese, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Dan Kriel.
Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), James Doleman (New Zealand)
TMO: Aaron Paterson (New Zealand)