All Blacks fullback Israel Dagg should be available to play for the Crusaders in their next big challenge - the Chiefs in Fiji - after they held off the Hurricanes last night in what has been described as a benchmark win for them.

The Crusaders would have been in high spirits after denying the defending champions a bonus point or even a try in front of a sold-out AMI Stadium. Their pack strangled the visitors and in turn the talents of in-form first-five No10 were effectively neutralised, as planned.

Dagg's return from a knee injury will add to the light mood for a team on top of the Super Rugby table with a perfect 11 wins from 11 matches record.

The only negatives were the injuries they suffered in the course of the 20-12 win, and in particular that to lock Scott Barrett.


Barrett "tweaked" a knee and an ankle near the end of the first half and is likely to be out of action for about two weeks, but the impact of that loss will be lessened by the return of skipper Sam Whitelock from suspension, and the outstanding form of Barrett's 20-year-old replacement Quinten Strange.

Flanker Matt Todd, who captained the side last night, left the field with concussion and failed the head injury assessment test, but showed no symptoms afterwards and will be hopeful of starting against the Chiefs in Suva on Friday.

Assistant coach Leon MacDonald said this morning that nullifying All Blacks first-five Barrett was crucial.

"With the attacking talents they have and with Beauden Barrett at No10, we just couldn't give them front foot ball," MacDonald told Radio Sport's Mark Watson.

"The forwards were magnificent in the way they controlled the set piece and gave them poor ball nearly all night and made it a really tough night for him to play his game.

"It doesn't matter who you are. If you're getting poor ball and you don't have a lot of time with the ball, it makes life difficult. The thing about Beauden Barrett is that he's clever with pretty average ball... his kicking game was also another threat. We needed to make sure our position in the back field was spot on and to make sure when he was kicking he was kicking under pressure."

The Crusaders, who scored the only try of the game when Todd crashed over from a lineout maul, won the big moments through their set piece and their scrum in particular.

Three times the Hurricanes were in good positions in the second half and three times they conceded scrum penalties, the pressure from the red and blacks too much to sustain.

Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd said: "Our set piece creaked significantly more than we would have liked. We need to do better than that."

Midfielder Ngani Laumape was the Hurricanes' biggest attacking threat, particularly when picking first-five Richie Mo'unga to run at, but once Ryan Crotty re-organised the defensive lines the Crusaders stopped even him.

Second-five Crotty's class was evident throughout, MacDonald saying: "Obviously I'm biased but I think his all round game is the best in New Zealand in that position."

MacDonald, a former All Blacks fullback, added: "This was a massive test for us because the Hurricanes are at the top of their game as well. They gave us a bit of a flogging last year in Christchurch and in the big games they've kept standing up and knocking teams over. This was a benchmark win for us."