New Zealand internationals Dan Carter and Richie McCaw were at their brilliant best as the Crusaders swept aside the Highlanders 51-18 in Christchurch.
Carter was all class in getting his backline moving, his kicking choices creating two early tries and rocking the Highlanders from the outset. McCaw was all over the field in a game which was helter-skelter, resulting in some lucky breaks in the refereeing stakes, but he showed he too was back to his best after his foot injury.
Zac Guildford scored two tries, while McCaw, Wyatt Crockett, George Whitelock, Ryan Crotty and Matt Todd also crossed over for the Crusaders. Carter kicked five conversions and two penalties. Hosea Gear and Tamati Ellison touched down for the Highlanders, while Chris Noakes added a conversion and two penalties.
Meanwhile, the Brumbies maintained their lead at the top of the Australian Conference with a hard-fought 27-19 triumph over the Melbourne Rebels at AAMI Park.
It was not their best performance of the season, but the two-tries-to-one victory was enough to keep the Brumbies one-point in front of the Reds at the summit and in the box seat to book a spot in the Super Rugby finals series.
The Brumbies enjoyed the majority of possession on the night, but were never really able to put away a gritty Rebels outfit that tried their hearts out right until the final siren.
But tries to Andrew Smith and Robbie Coleman, coupled with the accurate kicking of Zack Holmes and Jesse Mogg, proved the difference on a cold night in Melbourne.
Cooper Vuna crossed over for the Rebels. Julian Huxley added the conversion and also scored four penalties.