Super rugby’s champion Crusaders cruised to a 54-17 and eighth straight win over former champions the Blues at AMI Stadium in Christchurch.
The Crusaders victory is their twelfth straight victory this season against all teams so they will go into the playoffs unbeaten since March and with home advantage until the final if they remain unbeaten.
The result is also the defending champions 17th consecutive home victory.
George Bridge scored a hat-trick of tries while Jack Goodhue and Melani Nanai both crossed for two each. Ultimately though the Crusaders outscored the Blues by eight tries to three.
The loss for the Blues ends their season on four wins from sixteen matches which is a backward step compared to 2017 when they won seven and drew one from 15 matches.
The Crusaders will now play a waiting game to see whether the Sharks can beat the Jaguares in Durban which would see the South African side travel to Christchurch next weekend. If the Sharks draw or lose to the Jaguares the Rebels will face the Crusaders next weekend.
The Crusaders went into a 19-5 lead at the break after tries from Jack Goodhue, George Bridge and Seta Tamanivalu while the Blues only points came from a Melani Nanai try.
Bridge went on to score two further tries in the second half which has pushed him to the equal top of the try scoring list with 14 for the Super rugby season.
The Blues enjoyed similar possesion statistics to the Crusaders but lacked the ability to recycle the ball quickly enough to build momentum and turn it into points.
The Crusaders had set up a comfortable lead over the Blues but half way through the second half the Blues bounced back with two tries.
A penalty try from a dominant scrum and then a quick second try from Nanai closed the gap to 26-17 for the Blues.
While this had given the Blues hope it also spurred on the Crusaders and Bridge crossed for his second half brace and one try each from Sam Whitelock and Bryn Hall.
Final Score Crusaders 54 (19) Blues 17 (5)
Tries – J.Goodhue 2, G.Bridge 3, S.Tamanivalu, S.Whitelock, B.Hall
Con – R.Mo’unga 4, M.Hunt 3
Tries – M.Nanai 2, Penalty Try
Con -Penalty try conversion
Referee: Federico Anselmi
Assistant Ref 1:Jamie Nutbrown
Assistant Ref 2:Mike Fraser
TMO : Shane McDermott
15 Israel Dagg, 14 Seta Tamanivalu, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock (captain), 4 Quinten Strange, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Andrew Makalio, 1 Tim Perry
Replacements : 16 Sam Anderson-Heather, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Donald Brighouse, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Manasa Mataele
15. Matt Duffie, 14. Melani Nanai, 13. Michael Collins, 12. Rieko Ioane, 11. Caleb Clarke, 10. Stephen Perofeta, 9. Augustine Pulu ©; 8. Akira Ioane, 7. Blake Gibson, 6. Jerome Kaino, 5. Ben Nee-Nee, 4. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3. Ofa Tuungafasi, 2. Matt Moulds, 1. Alex Hodgman
Replacements: 16. Ross Wright, 17. Pauliasi Manu, 18. Sione Mafileo, 19. Jacob Pierce, 20. Murphy Taramai, 21. Sam Nock, 22. Bryn Gatland, 23. Tamati Tua.