The Crusaders remained unbeaten after Saturday's match against the Lions which saw the home team winning by points 31 to 6.
With their novices to the fore, the unbeaten Crusaders took maximum points as they reversed a 3-6 deficit at halftime to run in four tries in the second half and extend their competition lead to seven points over the Coastal Sharks.
Although the Crusaders were rested from having a bye last week, a mounting injury toll and mid-season wear and tear forced coach Robbie Deans to stand down more than half the regular run-on side.
Starting without high-profile players including Daniel Carter, Richie McCaw, Leon MacDonald and Brad Thorn, and with Reuben Thorne taken off injured after 20 minutes, it was a gamble that took 40 minutes to bear fruit.
The Lions, with nothing to lose, started as the dominant side, and kept a hesitant Crusaders outfit pinned in their own half, although they could not breach the defensive lines.
Instead, the first-half scoring was restricted to penalties, two by Lions halfback Chris Jonck and one to Crusaders' rookie flyhalf Hamish Gard.
The turning point in the game came just before halftime, when Lions wing Rayno Benjamin was yellow carded for blatant interference from an offside position.
With a one-man advantage the Crusaders piled on 11 points in the opening stages of the second half, going from 3-6 to 14-6, as they gave away the kicking game and played more with the ball in hand.
Gard landed two handy penalties and Sean Maitland scored the first try down the right wing where Benjamin should have been defending.
The Crusaders then hammered home the advantage with three quick tries in a six-minute burst, from hooker Ti'i Paulo, left wing Caleb Ralph and halfback Andrew Ellis.
Ellis's try was one of the standout moments of the season.
It started with a Crusaders' counter-attack from inside their own 22 and the ball passed through 10 pairs of hands before Maitland was stopped on the line and Ellis took the ball from the ruck to dive over a pile of players for the try.
Regular Crusaders hooker Corey Flynn, who came on to captain the side for the the last quarter, said the six-times champions had shown the depth of quality in their squad with the way the young players had performed.
"They're up on the big stage now and they're really starting to perform well and they're going to be exciting players in years to come," he said, while acknowledging there were obvious jitters at the start.
"At halftime we really had to take a look at ourselves. The Lions came out and really gave it to us in the first half so I'm pleased that the boys came out in the second half and did what we said we would do."The Full time score is Crusaders 31 Lions 6
Cards - Rayno Benjamin (yellow)
Referee: Matt Goddard (Australia)
Assistant Referees : Stuart Dickinson (Australia), Vinny Munro (New Zealand)
TV Match Official : Kane McBride (New Zealand)
Reviewer/Perf. Auditor : Stuart Beissel (New Zealand)
Scott Hamilton, Sean Maitland, Casey Laulala, Tim Bateman, Caleb Ralph, Hamish Gard, Andrew Ellis, Mose Tuiali'i, George Whitelock, Reuben Thorne (captain), Ali Williams, Michael Paterson, Greg Somerville, Ti'i Paulo, Wyatt Crockett.
Reserves: Corey Flynn, Ben Franks, Brad Thorn, Nasi Manu, Steve Alfeld, Stephen Brett, Kieran Read
Louis Ludik, Dusty Noble, Jannie Boshoff, Doppies la Grange, Rayno Benjamin, Jaco van Schalkwyk, Chris Jonck, Willem Alberts, Joe van Niekerk , Cobus Grobbelaar (capt.), Gerhard Mostert, Dewald Senekal , Ross Geldenhuys, Ethienne Reynecke, Heinke van der Merwe.