There was always going to be a response from the Crusaders after their shocker in Suva against the Chiefs but few would have predicted the extent of this beating they put on the Rebels a week later at their Christchurch fortress on Saturday night.

Make no mistake, this was a 66-0 rout against one of the better sides in Australia, and one likely to make the playoffs. The visitors were simply torn to shreds by a backline led superbly once again by Richie Mo'unga who was in complete control and presumably a joy to watch for most fans on this side of the Tasman.

The Crusaders playmaker has had a difficult past fortnight but this performance should serve to put that well into the background because he was alert to everything and capable of providing just about every attacking platform.

His kicking out of hand, in particular, was brilliant and his cross-kicks and dinks in behind the defence led to several tries and constantly kept the Melbourne side guessing.


He is a special talent. The Crusaders needed only two competition points from this match to ensure home advantage in all of their playoff matches and they now have the luxury of a bye to refresh themselves before their quarter-final.

They will be huge favourites make it three in a row under coach Scott Robertson due to that home advantage but as long as Mo'unga is fit and healthy they will be doubly hard to beat. Significantly at this time of year, he also kicked seven from eight in front of goal.

Mo'unga was that good but he also had the luxury of a well-motivated pack in front of him, providing quality quick ball and a routinely accurate backline with firepower that appears to be reaching top form at just the right time.

Wings Braydon Ennor and Sevu Reece both scored hat-tricks, the latter including a freakish individual try which started from his own goal line and one thanks to a remarkable offload from second-five Ryan Crotty who was celebrating his 150th match for the Crusaders. Fittingly, Crotty had the final say with a try which he neatly converted.

Fullback David Havili also bagged a double, including an excellent one from 60m out.

Reece's hat-trick took him to 13 for the season and puts him out on top of the competition leaderboard but he and his teammates were assisted by a Rebels side who fell to pieces defensively in the second half.

Another factor in the home side's attack was their ability to put the Rebels under pressure when the visitors had the ball. They never looked comfortable in possession and were made to pay dearly for just about every mistake. It was probably fitting that they didn't register a point.

It appeared they were more interested in next week's home match against the Chiefs than this one, perhaps because they decided it was more winnable. There was no Will Genia in Christchurch and Quade Cooper was on the reserves bench until deep into the match.


The Crusaders had 50 points just after the hour mark and not surprisingly looked to their reserves bench relatively early, with loosehead prop Tim Perry a significant replacement after recovering from a broken arm suffered in round one.

He will be happy to be back and so will every single one of his teammates. Statement made, now it's the playoffs for them again.

Crusaders 66 (Braydon Ennor 3, Sevu Reece 3, David Havili 2, Bryn Hall, Ryan Crotty tries; Richie Mo'unga 7 cons, Crotty con)
Rebels 0
Halftime: 26-0