It was scarcely believable that the Waratahs raced out to a 29-0 lead in Christchurch and possibly even harder to take in the fact that the Crusaders still won.

The winning streak for New Zealand teams has been nudged up to 39 now and of all the games played within it, this is the one that seems hardest to reconcile as not being an Australian victory.

What must the Waratahs be thinking after owning the Crusaders for 30 brilliant minutes, only to concede 31 in the next 50?

This was brilliant, crazy rugby and while the result may seem like business as usual, the way the Waratahs played suggests they will win against Kiwi opposition at some stage.

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They will feel like their trip to Christchurch should have been the night it all happened for them, but the Crusaders responded to their predicament with a brutal, ruthless 50 minutes that showed all their champion qualities.

To be so far down and come back took composure, belief and enormous hard work from the home side.

Sam Whitelock's captaincy was supreme. He never looked rattled, never let his body language show what he may have been feeling inside and gave the distinct impression that the 29-point deficit was a trifling inconvenience.

He had a few willing foot soldiers to help him instil calm. Jordan Taufua was into everything and made some telling runs. Codie Taylor took control of the rolling maul and Scott Barrett made some telling offloads and tackles.

Seta Tamanivalu was superb on the wing, taking on defenders and beating them, while George Bridge had a wondrous night at fullback, where he caught everything and made inroads when he ran back.

The Crusaders will inevitably spend a bit of time reviewing how they started so badly. They couldn't hold their passes, they couldn't build anything and they had a really bad plan of continuously kicking to Israel Folau.

That didn't work for them, as the Waratahs fullback took everything in the air and countered to devastating effect.

Presumably, it was after Folau and Kurtley Beale ripped through the Crusaders from a poor kick that the penny dropped — stop doing it.

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And once the Crusaders decided to put the emphasis on holding the ball and reducing their marginal passing, things turned quickly.

Just like that, the passes started to stick. The Crusaders stopped taking so many risks and recycled when they weren't sure.

They had their focus on ball retention and that made all the difference. When they built the phases, they forced the Waratahs into defensive errors.

The Australians' discipline collapsed on them when they had to defend for prolonged periods and the penalties came and the rolling maul was brought out to haul back the deficit.

The 10 minutes before halftime were the key to the comeback. They were 10 astonishing minutes where the Crusaders were unstoppable. If they were to give themselves any chance of winning, they had to score at least one try, if not two before the break, and they managed three.

And not only did they score 19 points, they forced the Waratahs down to 14 men, giving them the assurance the momentum would still be with them when they returned for the second half.

It took a while for the killer blows to be struck but there was never any doubt the Crusaders were going to get there. They were camped in the Waratahs half and their set piece was so strong that the penalty try was always likely from a scrum.

Crusaders 31 (J. Moody, C. Taylor, S. Tamanivalu, B. Ennor, Penalty tries; R. Mo'unga 2 cons)
Waratahs 29 (B. Foley, T. Naiyaravoro, I. Folau, C. Rona tries; B. Foley pens, 3 cons)