There is no underestimating the importance of this victory for the Crusaders over the Hurricanes in perfect conditions for them in Christchurch tonight.

On a cold and very wet evening at AMI Stadium, a state of affairs that suits this outfit just fine, the Crusaders went a long way to qualifying for a potential home final should they continue to travel in the same direction.

But the fact they did it with relative ease against one of the most dangerous sides in the competition, one that has won their last 10 games in a row, in no way reflected the personnel available to them because they were severely undermanned.

No Joe Moody and Owen Franks due to suspension, and no Sam Whitelock, Jordan Taufua or Ryan Crotty due to injury. It was no problem for Scott Robertson's men even despite the fact they lost midfielder Tim Bateman to a hamstring injury and loose forward Pete Samu to a head knock in the first half.


To compound matters they then lost wing replacement Braydon Ennor, but still they coped, no, thrived, in the miserable conditions in front of a hardy but expectant crowd, and it wasn't only because of their pack, although that was a big part of it.

It was not a night for expansive play, and that counted against a Hurricanes backline with firepower all over the shop. It was a night for the big men to smash each other and make gains by the centimetre and it was here that the Crusaders won it.

They won it with a driving maul which got them their first two tries, and a powerful scrum which got them their third through Heiden Bedwell-Curtis – that - a move which seemed to have an element of their coach Scott Robertson about it.

They got it with discipline – and the Hurricanes wobbled here, especially in the third quarter – and they got it with a first-five Richie Mo'unga, who outshone his illustrious opposite Beauden Barrett, and a midfielder in Jack Goodhue who just might be one of the most in-form centres in New Zealand at the moment.

The Hurricanes have had the wood on the Crusaders in recent times, including in their first meeting in Wellington earlier this season and the last round-robin match of last year.

But these difficult conditions and dominant, strong-arm performance, were highly reminiscent of the corresponding match in Christchurch last year when the home side put the visitors, and No10 Barrett, in a head lock with their line speed and desire and never let go.

Incredibly, they were a chance to win with a bonus point but for Reed Prinsep's late try. However, unfortunately for the visitors, they couldn't get close enough and left with nothing.

It was a match won on important, decisive, moments, and the Crusaders easily won those. It was impressive in a clinical, grinding way; a match won against the odds, and they must now be considered a fantastic chance to defend their title.

This won't be the end of the Hurricanes, however, and they will almost certainly feature deep in the playoffs. It wouldn't surprise if these two teams contested the final in August.

The only big variable is where it will be held and on this evidence it will be in Christchurch.

Crusaders 24 (Scott Barrett, Michael Alaalatoa, Heiden Bedwell-Curtis tries; Richie Mo'unga 3 cons, pen)
Hurricanes 13 (Reed Prinsep try; Jordie Barrett pen, Beauden Barrett con, pen)
Halftime: 7-6