The Crusaders stretched their winning streak to nine matches with a controversial 48-21 win against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
A controversially disallowed try just before half-time saw a possible one-point gap between the teams at the break had changed to 15 and the home players walked demoralised to the changing rooms.
The Cheetahs believed they scored three minutes before half-time through wing Sergeal Petersen only for the try to be disallowed because of a forward pass.
TMO Johan Greeff said there was "compelling evidence" that prop Retshegofaditswe Nche passed forward to Petersen, but TV replays suggested otherwise. Within two minutes, the Crusaders scored a try to lead 22-7 at half-time at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein.
The Cheetahs suffered a further blow when lock Armandt Koster was sin-binned four minutes into the second half for a ruck offence.
Tries were scored at regular intervals by the visitors thereafter and they finished with a bonus-point win and four-point lead in the New Zealand conference.
Crusaders captain and lock Sam Whitelock attributed the winning streak this season to hard work on the training ground.
"That is where we lay the foundations for the victories. Honing our skills in training makes it easier for us to perform on matchdays," Whitelock said.
Fullback David Havili, who scored two tries, hailed the pack as the "unsung heroes" of the team from Christchurch.
"Full credit to our forwards for creating the platform. We are enjoying our rugby and there is something special about this group of guys," he stated.
Wing George Bridge (three), flyhalf Richie Mo'unga and substitute scrumhalf Mitchell Drummond were the other try scorers for the visitors. Mo'unga missed only one kick at goal before being benched, slotting five conversions and a penalty.
Wing Raymond Rhule, Nche and Petersen scored tries for the Cheetahs and flyhalf Niel Marais kicked three conversions.
Man of the match: Ryan Crotty was as always in his best form and David Havili proved that he has what is takes to fulfil All Black star Israel Dagg's boots - with his great line-breaks and lethal counter-attack. However, our nod goes to George Bridge - the wing was constantly seeking work and he bagged a hat-trick.
Tries: Rhule, Nche, Petersen
Cons: Marais 3
Tries: Havili 2, Bridge 3, Mo'unga, Drummond
Cons: Mo'unga 5
Yellow Cards: Armandt Koster (Cheetahs, 43 - repeat offences at the breakdown), Sam Whitelock (Crusaders, 71 - leading with the elbow), Mitchell Hunt (Crusaders, 77 - Not releasing the tackler and sealing the ball)
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (captain), 12 Nico Lee, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Paul Schoeman, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Uzair Cassiem, 5 Carl Wegner, 4 Armandt Koster, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacements: 16 Elandré Huggett, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Francois Uys, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Niell Jordaan, 22 Tian Meyer, 23 Clinton Swart.
Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Seta Tamanivalu, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock (captain), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Manasa Mataele.
Referee: Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
Assistant referees: Nic Berry (Australia), AJ Jacobs (South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)
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