Highlanders captain Jamie Mackintosh has praised his team mates for their commitment against a rampant Crusaders Super Rugby team who beat the Highlanders 51-18.
The Highlanders had beaten the Crusaders in their last two meetings and were expected to push the hosts closely as the Christchurch men had the bye last week.
The result moved the Crusaders to within two points of New Zealand Conference leaders the Chiefs who are nine points ahead of the Highlanders.
"Hats off to the red and black team, they were on fire tonight, " Mackintosh said of the Crusaders.
"I couldn't fault my boys' effort and commitment but they've got some classy players who really punished our mistakes and took advantage of some line breaks. "
"We were chasing the game," admitted Mackintosh.
"In the first half we got into it after (Ellison) scored but within 10 minutes they pushed it right out and it was a tough day at the office. "
Crusaders playmaker Dan Carter who kicked a couple of long range penalties on his way to a 21 point total said that the match was tougher than the scoreline suggested.
"It was a very physical encounter, " Carter said.
"That first 20 minutes really set the standard and we knew we really had to get physical and we did that and got the reward by scoring those tries.
"We knew this was a very important match for us against the Highlanders. "
"They're sitting just behind us on the table so it was a must win and I'm really proud of the boys tonight. "