The Crusaders recovered from a slow start to beat the Southern Kings 57-24 with a bonus point at AMI Stadium in Christchurch.
The Crusaders outscored the Kings by eight tries to three so they take five points from the match in the standings.
The huge Fijian wing Nemani Nadolo scored two of the Crusaders’ tries and was the battering ram who paved the way for several others as they Kings defence fell apart.
It was a game the Crusaders, coming off the bye, were expected to win with ease and coach Todd Blackadder used the occasion to make nine changes and blood several fringe players.
But with the rearrangement, which included resting incoming All Blacks captain Kieran Read, it was not a promising start for the Crusaders who found themselves down 10 points down after 11 minutes.
“There was a bit of rust there,” captain Sam Whitelock said, adding the new combinations took time to settle in.
“The boys were pumped up and really wanted to play so we had to try and keep them back and play with a bit of structure.”
Louis Fouche opened the scoring for the Kings with a handy penalty and then converted Luzuko Vulindlu’s runaway try after the right wing intercepted a loose Wyatt Crockett Pass.
However, once the seven-times champion Crusaders settled down their dominance could not be denied as they ran in four tries before half-time to lead 29-10 at the turn.
Nadolo was primed to charge at the Kings, drawing in defenders to open gaps wide out. He bulldozed his way to the line twice, while Ben Funnell touched down at the end of a long-range build up, Johnny McNicholl matched Vulindlu’s runaway effort and Richie Mo’unga added nine points off the boot.
The Crusaders continued to pile on the pressure at the start of the second half, sweeping the field with multiple passing movements resulting in tries to Mo’unga and Mitchell Drummond to extend the lead to 43-10.
Despite the lopsided scoreline, the Kings continued to battle away and Edgar Marutlulle, who scored twice against the Chiefs last week, came off the bench to touch down.
Further sustained pressure from the Kings, however, was meet with determined Crusaders defence until an eventual turnover produced another length-of-the-field move which ended with a try to Jone Macilai-Tori.
Chris Cloete scored a third try for the Kings before replacement Pete Samu scored the Crusaders eighth try after another Nadolo drive at the line.
Next week the Southern Kings face the Hurricanes in Wellington while the Crusaders travel to South Africa where they will play the Sharks in Durban.
Nemani Nadolo was named man of the match.
Final Score Crusaders 57 (29) Kings 24 (10)
Tries – N.Nadolo 2, J.McNicholl, B.Funnell, R.Mo’unga, J.Macilai, P. Samu
Pen – R’Mo’unga
Con – R’Mo’unga 4, B. Volavola 3
Tries – L.Vulindlu, E.Marutlulle, C.Cloete
Pen – L.Fouche
Con – LFouche 3
Cards – C.Cloete (74th min yellow)
Referee: William Houston
Assistant Ref 1:Brendon Pickerill
Assistant Ref 2:Angus Mabey
TMO : Chris Wratt
1. Wyatt Crockett , 2. Ben Funnell , 3. Owen Franks , 4. Luke Romano, 5. Samuel Whitelock (C), 6. Jordan Taufua , 7. Matt Todd , 8. Jimmy Tupou , 9. Mitchell Drummond , 10. Richie Mo’unga, 11. Nemani Nadolo , 12. David Havili ,13. Kieron Fonotia , 14. Johnny McNicholl, 15. Marty McKenzie
Replacements : 16. Ged Robinson , 17. Alex Hodgman ,18. Mike Alaalatoa ,19. Tim Boys ,20. Pete Samu ,21. Leon Fukofuka ,22. Ryan Crotty , 23. Jone Macilai
15. Jurgen Visser , 14. Luzuko Vulindlu , 13. Stefan Watermeyer , 12. Shane Gates (vc) , 11. Malcolm Jaer , 10. Louis Fouche , 9. Kevin Luiters , 8. Jacques Engelbrecht , 7. Thembelani Bholi , 6. Chris Cloete , 5. JC Astle , 4. Steven Sykes (c) , 3. Jacobie Adriaanse , 2. Martin Ferreira , 1. Schalk Ferreira
Replacments : 16. Edgar Marutlulle , 17. Sti Sithole , 18. Tom Botha , 19. Schalk Oelofse , 20. CJ Velleman , 21. Ntando Kebe , 22. Elgar Watts , 23. JP Du Plessis