The New Zealand conference juggernaut rolls on.

The Crusaders made it a 5-0 sweep from New Zealand sides over Australian and South African opposition on the weekend. They also racked up their 10th straight victory over Australian teams and have regained the lead at the top of the New Zealand conference. There was, though, some untidiness, which kept the Waratahs in the contest before their home crowd in Sydney.

"We were really good at times. We made a few mistakes in that first spell and they came back," says Crusaders captain Sam Whitelock. "They got in our faces and we spilled the ball, so we knew we had to pick it up as we knew they had come from behind the week before (against the Rebels)."

The Crusaders' strong finish secured the bonus point, via a try to replacement hooker Ben Funnell, and saw them leapfrog the Chiefs. But their last 20 minutes were eerily similar to the manner in which the Hurricanes finished the job against the Reds. And like the Hurricanes, the Crusaders started with real intent, intensity and pace.


Left wing George Bridge is no Nemani Nadolo, but he is a smart, resourceful footballer who invariably takes the right option. He scored the opening try, just ate up the metres with his elusive and clever running, and set up Tim Bateman's second try.

When the Red Sea parted for David Havili off a lineout, it was 12-0 and hope was forlorn for the Waratahs, stretched to breaking point on defence by the offloading and continuity game of the visitors.

But the Waratahs were hauled up by the ubiquitous Michael Hooper, who probably shaded Matt Todd with an allround, committed display. The Wallaby No 7 scored the Waratahs' opening try from close range, while burly lock Will Skelton was disrupting the Crusader mauls. However, their defence was porous and that cost them dearly.

Bateman offered full value at centre, scoring two tries and providing direction to the Crusaders' midfield after Ryan Crotty, who was in the wars, limped off.

When massive Waratahs right wing Taqele Naiyaravoro used Bridge as a hood ornament on the way to a bullocking try, there was hope for the home side at 22-26. But those hopes were snuffed out in sterling fashion via Bryn Hall, who finished a fine team try, and by Funnell's late flourish.

There was time for prop Wyatt Crockett to enter the second half fray and equal Keven Mealamu as the most capped Super Rugby player of all time with 175.

"Everyone is buying into the whole team vibe," says Whitelock. Rest, recovery and family and friends time is on the cards for the next few days due to the bye.

Despite no Kieran Read, Israel Dagg and Seta Tamanivalu, some of the more unsung Crusaders have stepped up nicely. Read Whetu Douglas, Mitch Hunt and Hall, the latter displaying far more than he showed with the Blues. Few would have picked a backline lacking in some X-factor would have complemented a solid forward pack so effectively in the opening six rounds.

The Crusaders can now enjoy the bye before their next match, on April 14, against the hapless Sunwolves in Christchurch. They will surely go 7-0 after that one. There is little rest for the Waratahs, who must try and contain the Hurricanes in Wellington on Friday night.

Crusaders 41 (Tim Bateman 2, George Bridge, David Havili, Bryn Hall, Ben Funnell tries; Mitch Hunt 3 con, pen, Marty McKenzie con)
Waratahs 22 (Michael Hooper, Jake Gordon, Taqele Naiyaravoro tries; Reece Robinson 2 con, pen)
HT: 19-10 Crusaders