Coming off back-to-back losses, the Crusaders rediscovered their winning form with a bonus-point 29-15 Super Rugby win over the Blues on Saturday in Christchurch.
Solid work at the breakdown and a lethal counterattack laid the base for the struggling Crusaders, sitting 10th in the overall competition and coming off losses to the Highlanders and the Chiefs.
Halfback Mitchell Drummond scored after two minutes, the try sparked by a storming run from Nemani Nadolo.
The giant Fijian winger drew the defence before unloading to centre Ryan Crotty who slipped the inside pass which put Drummond in the clear.
The Crusaders continued to dominate possession and territory in the opening 20 minutes, with Nadolo looming large in their second try as they shifted the ball wide from an attacking lineout.
Nadolo again drew the Blues’ defence down the left, attacking the line before unloading the deftest of passes for blindside flanker Jordan Taufua to dive over.
The Blues, with just one win from nine matches and coming off a 30-24 loss to the Highlanders last week, sit bottom of the New Zealand conference.
Coach Sir John Kirwan made eight changes to his team, and the new combinations took time to settle.
A Daniel Bowden penalty put them on the board after 20 minutes, then Francis Saili sliced through the Crusaders’ defence from an attacking scrum to narrow their lead to just four points as halftime approached.
Colin Slade added another penalty just before the break to give the Crusaders a 17-10 lead at the interval, a lead they extended barely a minute after the restart.
Tom Taylor scored after yet another storming Nadolo run down the left, then hooker Codie Taylor finished off a sustained period of Crusaders pressure with a 58th-minute bonus point try.
The Crusaders suffered a blow five minutes later when All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw was sidelined with concussion.
But although the Blues picked up a second try soon after through flanker Brendon O’Connor, the Crusaders’ control of the game was never seriously threatened.