The Crusaders have extended their unbeaten record by humbling the Stormers in one of their best performances of the season.

It was definitely their best first-half effort. Leading 36-3 against the South African conference leaders at halftime, the Stormers came back into the game at AMI Stadium, but the Crusaders out-matched them everywhere, and particularly in terms of physicality and skill level.

The Stormers' home victory over the Chiefs a fortnight ago meant the Crusaders went into this match with minds focused. They were expecting a physical scrap from a side prepared to push things to the edge and occasionally beyond, but as it turned out this was a match-up between a heavyweight and a middleweight.

There was a hint of the new attacking edge after the break brought to the Stormers by Kiwi coach Paul Feeney, and some untidy stuff from the Crusaders later on, but after some early dominance by the visitors the result was never in doubt. In the end it was a rout.

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The bonus-point eight-tries-to-three victory puts the Crusaders back to the top of the table before their trip to South Africa and they will leave with their confidence sky-high.

Robert Du Preez's penalty, which opened the scoring, was the Stormers' sole highlight in the first half, the Crusaders responding with a hat-trick from George Bridge and two tries from Kieran Read.

The red and blacks were into everything and the onslaught stunned the men from Cape Town. Springboks lock Eben Etzebeth, the Stormers' skipper, tried his best but he was shunted back mercilessly by a Crusaders team playing with an almost perfect mix of controlled fury and accuracy.

"We absorbed a lot of their start... but we were happy with what we did with the ball when we did get our hands on it," skipper Sam Whitelock said afterwards.

It wasn't perfect from the home side but much of their mistakes came because they were playing with so much ambition.

Their skill level and variety on attack would have been too much for most teams in this competition, certainly too much for any not from New Zealand; one of the highlights was Read's second try which featured most of the team in the build-up and two offloads from Jack Goodhue and Codie Taylor.

Other Super Rugby teams, and perhaps even British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland will watch this match with a degree of consternation.

It's one thing midfielders and wings throwing passes out of the back of their hands, but another seeing front rowers do it, and this annihilation was noticeable too for Owen Franks' new-found ball handling ability.

It is the second time in their history that the Crusaders have opened the season on an eight-win streak.

The Crusaders were put under pressure in the opening minutes, but looked to run the ball every chance they got and it was clear they wanted to run the Stormers around after their long trip from the Republic.

Scott Robertson's side have made the strong finish an art-form this season, but this time the points avalanche came from the 12th minute.

Mo'unga put in a near flawless performance at first-five - his pass intercepted by Cheslin Kolbe apart - and Read put in an excellent first half before being replaced by Pete Samu, who ran in a try from 70 metres.

"Some major errors and some ill-discipline cost us tonight," Etzebeth said.

Crusaders 57 (George Bridge 3, Kieran Read 2, Michael Alaalatoa, Pete Samu, Manasa Mataele tries; Richie Mo'unga 6 cons, pen, Mitch Hunt con.
Stormers 24 (Cheslin Kolbe, Bjorn Basson, Oliver Kebble tries; Robert Du Preez pen, 3 cons
Halftime: 36-3