The Crusaders sealed their place in the Super Rugby play offs next week when they eased to a 38-24 bonus point victory over the Force in Christchurch.
The result means that the Crusaders have sealed fourth place and booked a home quarter final next weekend at home in Christchurch.
Leading 32-3 at half time the Crusaders brought on several replacements in order to rest some of their stars like Richie McCaw and Dan Carter and then Andy Ellis was benched 10 minutes after the break.
With the Crusaders' key decision-makers sidelined, the Force struck back with three converted tries although they never looked like overhauling the seven-time champions, whose second-half points were limited to two penalties.
The Force won the second half by 21 points to 6.
"We played with pretty good pace and intensity that created those opportunities in the first half and the disappointing part is we didn't carry that on," McCaw said.
"There was a good period just before half time when we had them on the ropes and could have made them pay a bit more."
Despite the outcome, Force captain and Super rugby's most-capped player Nathan Sharpe said it was a fitting end to his 162nd and last game in the competition.
"To come in against a Crusaders side who are finishing the season very strongly the boys hung in there very well," he said.
"It's fantastic to come here and have my last game against what I've considered the hardest opposition across my whole career."
Sharpe's career in Super Rugby is now over but he has made himself available for Australia in the upcoming Rugby championship.
After two upsets in the first two games of the weekend - the Hurricanes beating the Chiefs and the Blues downing the Brumbies - the Crusaders were determined to stamp their mark early.
Their first try came in the opening minute when they regained the kick-off and moved play right then left to stretch the Force defence allowing Israel Dagg to score in the corner.
Adam Whitelock and Zac Guildford both had dabs at the line before Sean Maitland scored the second try, coming off the blind wing to take an outside pass from centre Ryan Crotty.
After Ben Seymour and Carter traded penalties the Crusaders finished off the half with a scoring burst which saw tries to Ellis and Matt Todd. Both were converted by Carter, who also landed a second penalty.
Tom Taylor, the Crusaders' replacement fly-half, extended the lead to 35-3 with a penalty 10 minutes into the second half before the Force began to take control of the lineouts and scrums to turn the tide.
Kyle Godwin and fullback Alfie Mafi scored tries converted by Brett Sheehan to narrow the gap to 35-17.
Taylor landed his second penalty before Josh Holmes produced a third try for the Force when the Crusaders were down to 14 men with stand-in captain George Whitelock sin-binned.
Final Score Crusaders 38 (32) Force 24 (3).
Tries - I. Dagg, S. Maitland, A. Ellis, M. Todd
Pen - D. Carter 2, T. Taylor 2
Con - D. Carter 3
Cards - G. Whitelock (yellow)
Tries - K. Godwin, A. Mafi, J. Holmes
Pen - B. Seymour
Con - B. Sheehan, B. Seymour, K. Goodwin
Referee: Glen Jackson
Assistant Ref 1:Keith Brown
Assistant Ref 2: Kane McBride
TMO: Vinny Munro
1. Ben Franks, 2. Corey Flynn, 3. Owen Franks, 4. Luke Romano, 5. Tom Donnelly, 6. George Whitelock, 7. Matt Todd, 8. Richie McCaw (c), 9. Andy Ellis, 10. Dan Carter (vc), 11. Zac Guildford, 12. Ryan Crotty, 13. Adam Whitelock, 14. Sean Maitland, 15. Israel Dagg.
Replacements: 16. Quentin MacDonald , 17. Wyatt Crockett , 18. Samuel Whitelock, 19. Luke Whitelock, 20. Willi Heinz, 21. Tom Taylor, 22. Robbie Fruean
1. Tetera Faulkner, 2. Nathan Charles, 3. Salesi Manu, 4. Toby Lynn, 5. Nathan Sharpe (c), 6. Richard Brown, 7. Angus Cottrell, 8. Lachlan McCaffrey, 9. Brett Sheehan, 10. Ben Seymour, 11. Napolioni Nalaga, 12. Rory Sidey, 13. Patrick Dellit, 14. Nick Cummins, 15. Alfie Mafi.
Reserves: 16. Ben Whittaker, 17. Ruan Smith, 18. Pek Cowan, 19. Ollie Atkins, 20. Josh Holmes, 21. Kyle Godwin, 22. Will Tupou.