The Crusaders scored 26 unanswered points in the opening quarter of their Round Three encounter with the Stormers, as they continued to stamp their authority on the tournament.
The Crusaders are a wonderful side. They were certainly better than the Stormers, and yet.....
The Crusaders, on home soil, handled better, were better positioned, took their chances better, ran straighter, lineouted better, tackled better, kept possession better, In short they were the better side, and yet.....
After 19 minutes, the Crusaders led 26-0. The Stormers won the next hour 28-19, which was, of course, not nearly enough to win the match, but a cause for winning some self-respect. They actually scored four tries against the mighty champions. All four were scored by tight forwards. Of the Crusaders seven tries, five were scored by backs, and when Codie Taylor and Billy Harmon scored theirs they were out in the backline. The Crusaders' backs were helped by the two Stormers' wings whose positioning on defence was almost non-existence. Seabelo Senatla is willing but defence in 15s is seriously different from defending in Sevens.
The Crusaders attacked early in the match and scored early. From a penalty, they opted for a five-metre scrum against the Stormers. They went wide left and Jack Goodhue threw a long pass out to George Bridge on the wing who had nobody to stop him from scoring in the corner. 5-0 after 7 minutes.
From the kick-off, the Stormers attacked, but Pieter-Stef du Toit lost the ball and the Crusaders swept back into the Stormers' 22.
In the first half, the Stormers lost four on their own throws into line-outs. They lost their first two, and the Crusaders attacked, going right, then left to unmarked Cody Taylor, and the hooker scored in the left corner. Richie Mo'unga converted. 12-0 in 12 minutes.
Again the Stormers attacked after an exciting run by Raymond Rhule. Damian de Allende was close but the Crusaders won a turnover and eventually broke out for a line-out in the Stormers 22. They went left and flank Billy Harmon was over for the try. 19-0 after 17 minutes.
From the kick-off, Peter Samu burst through two Stormers who were lined up to tackle him. There was some interpassing and then scrumhalf Bryn Hall scampered away for a try at the posts. 26-0 after 19 minutes.
Then the Stormers' forwards machine started to drive. They won a five-metre line-out, attack ked and bashed through 15 phases with Wilco Louw and EW Viljoen close till JC Janse van Rensburg, an experienced prop, scored SP Marais converted. 26-7 after 33 minutes.
On the stroke of half-time, the Stormers attacked but Du Toit lost the ball and the Crusaders ran away with it. With interpassing and a delicate grubber, as Rhule missed the ball on the ground and Bridge picked it up to score and make the score 31-7 at the break.
When Du Toit lost the ball he was injured and taken off on a mobile stretcher. He was replaced by Jan de Klerk. As the match wore on, the Stormers made six changes to their pack and two to their backs.
The second half was barely under way when Senatla cleverly got possession, and Ramone Samuels and Siya Kolisi mounted an attack that took the Stormers close to the line. They bashed and prop Louw scored. 31-14 after 42 minutes.
Back came the Stormers. Big, strong Cobus Wiese had a powerful run that looked promising but his pass went astray. But the Stormers stayed on the attack and 20 phases later JD Schickerling spun round and dropped over the line for a try. 31-21 after 53 minutes.
This was a different, more energetic Stormers side from the first quarter of the match.
The Crusaders scored the next two tries. They mauled a line-out and then released the ball for a try by Seta Tamanivalu, which Mo'unga converted. 38-21 after 62 minutes.
The Crusaders were attacking when Mo'unga darted with clever footwork over for a try at the posts. 45-21 after 69 minutes.
An intercept by Kobus van Dyk gave the Stormers impetus. They bashed at the line till Steven Kitshoff made headway and scored a try but grounding the ball against the post's padding. 45-18 with five minutes to play.
The Stormers had a last chance as the clock moved into the red. They penalty into a line-out and then another penalty into a five-metre scrum. They attacked but the Crusaders won a turnover and kicked the ball dead for yet another comfortable victory in a high-scoring match.
Man of the Match. Cobus Wiese stood out for the Stormers but the player whose guiding hand on attack and defence and his personal play was Richie Mo'unga, our Man of the Match.
For the Crusaders:
Tries: Bridge 2, Taylor, Harmon, Hall, Tamanivalu, Mo'unga
Cons: Mo'unga 5
For the Stormers:
Tries: Janse van Rensburg, Louw, Schickerling, Kitshoff
Cons: Marais 3, Whitehead
Yellow card: Billy Harmon (Crusaders, 80 - cynical foul, not retreating 10 metres after a penalty was given)
Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Seta Tamanivalu, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Jordan Taufua, 7 Billy Harmon, 6 Peter Samu, 5 Samuel Whitelock (captain), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 Chris King, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Manasa Mataele.
Stormers: 15 Sarel Marais, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Dillyn Leyds, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Cobus Wiese, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi (captain), 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 John Schickerling, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Ramone Samuels, 1 Jacobus Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Dean Muir, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Jan de Klerk, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Kobus van Dyk, 22 Justin Phillips, 23 George Whitehead.
Referee: Nicholas Berry (Australia)
Assistant referees: Jamie Nutbrown (New Zealand), Cam Stone (New Zealand)
TMO: Shane McDermott (New Zealand)