Watching the Crusaders and Stormers you could be forgiven for thinking there was a mix up in scheduling. The Stormers were, for the first half at least, made to resemble a second-class club side such was the ease with which the ruthless defending champions blew them away inside 20 minutes.

That's all it took. Four tries in the first quarter and the game was as good as done. Maybe Christchurch locals saw this coming and that's why some stands were half full.

As it happened: Crusaders cruise past Stormers

Lucky the Crusaders are popular in Cape Town. With the Stormers down 31-7 by half time, long-suffering Western Cape supporters must have been ready to disown them.


The Stormers have never won in Christchurch and while they mounted a spirited second half comeback almost solely through their monster pack, it was never going to be enough. Too much damage had been done.

The Stormers had no answer for the speed the Crusaders recycled possession or the width they consistently chased.

In the finish the Crusaders scored seven tries but may have lost Richie Mo'unga to a broken jaw, with the All Blacks playmaker going for X-rays and coach Scott Robertson suggesting it did not look good. Mo'unga suffered the blow in a clash of heads while attempting to tackle replacement prop Steven Kitshoff.

Mo'unga wasn't perfect but before leaving late he challenged the line when it was on and produced deft ball-playing touches at other times. With one hit, he also sent big lock Pieter-Steph du Toit from the field.

Given the Crusaders' dominant start, conceding four tries will also frustrate.

Despite missing All Blacks Matt Todd, Joe Moody, Owen Franks, Kieran Read and Israel Dagg, and finishing the match with 13 men due to replacements, injuries, and a late yellow card, the Crusaders attack was slick.

But defence clearly needs some attention ahead of a derby match against the Hurricanes in Wellington next week, with the Stormers' belated direct approach causing problems.

The Stormers' dominant scrum, as it was last week in the last-minute loss to the Waratahs in Sydney, was a source of pride. The odd break from stand-in first five-eighth Dillyn Leyds and four barge over tries – three from props - were the only other positives.

The visitors were on the backfoot from the outset after losing captain Eben Etzebeth before kickoff and their lineout suffered accordingly. There was, however, no excuse for their terrible ball control and tackling.

Even on attack, they largely employed one dimensional, one-out running.

Bryn Hall enjoyed an armchair ride from the base, picking his runners nicely. Pete Samu was huge before departing with a shoulder injury and, in his starting debut, openside Billy Harmon scored a try, grabbed an intercept and was busy elsewhere. A late yellow card for some desperate defence was not a major blight.

Jack Goodhue, as we've come to expect already in his budding career, put in another classy shift. The All Blacks centre grows each week, consistently making calm, decisive decisions under pressure. In this match Goodhue carried strongly but also made a couple of intelligent kicks.

George Bridge took his chances on the edge with two tries. He skipped out of tackles and always went looking for work.

Two from two to start the year for the Crusaders is nothing we didn't expect. They are the early pace setters, the benchmark, and again the team everyone seeks to beat.

Crusaders 45 (George Bridge 2, Codie Taylor, Billy Harmon, Bryn Hall, Seta Tamanivalu, Richie Mo'unga tries; Mo'unga 5 cons)
Stormers 28 (JC Janse van Rensburg, Wilco Louw, JD Schickerling, Steven Kitshoff tries; SP Marais 4 cons)
HT: 31-7