The unbeaten Crusaders showed their depth of quality when they made sweeping changes to their side but still beat the Cheetahs 55-7 on Saturday.
In a nine-try rampage the Crusaders took maximum points to remain firmly embedded at the top of the table, while the toothless Cheetahs remain winless after five matches.
At home for the first time in four weeks, the Crusaders benched six regular run-on players but were still a class above the Cheetahs, who made eight changes of their own in an apparent submission before the start.
Foxsports reports that inside backs Daniel Carter and Stephen Brett ran the South Africans ragged with precision kicking that turned the Cheetahs around and had them running to defend.
“Kicking’s a big part but you’ve got to do it well and we didn’t want to play in our half and make mistakes and give the Cheetahs a chance,” said All Black Richie McCaw, who praised the young Crusaders getting their first start of the year.
“We wanted to get stuck in early and that first 40 minutes was pretty pleasing. We’ve always said we’ve got faith in the whole squad and it’s great that the guys got the opportunity.”
After Brett left the field with a shoulder injury when he set up Leon MacDonald’s first-half try, the Crusaders took to playing a more expansive running game.
While it proved costly with tries lost through loose passes, the result was never in doubt and the Crusaders were 33-0 up at half-time.
Casey Laulala crossed the Cheetahs’ line in the first minute of play and although that try was disallowed it was an omen of what was to come as the Crusaders chalked up their bonus-point fourth try inside 26 minutes.
The Crusaders backs scored eight of the nine tries, starting with teenaged wing Sean Maitland in the ninth minute when the Crusaders worked an overlap down the left flank.
The final try came just before full-time when the Crusaders were defending on their own line.
They won the turnover ball and counter-attacked instead of kicking for territory and the end-to-end move was sealed by Laulala scoring his second try of the match.
Dan Carter, MacDonald, Scott Hamilton (twice) and Caleb Ralph also scored while the sole forward to touch down was hooker Ti’i Paulo, who was starting in place of regular rake and former All Black Corey Flynn.
Carter landed five conversions while Conrad Barnard converted winger Jongi Nokwe’s try for the Cheetahs.Tweet