Sevu Reece scored three tries and Richie Mo’unga two as the Canterbury Crusaders went on a seven-try Super Rugby romp to crush the Northern Bulls 45-13 in Pretoria Friday.
A large crowd flocked to Loftus Versfeld stadium on a balmy autumn night to watch a clash of the teams then first and second in the combined standings.
But many South African left long before the final whistle having seen the Crusaders outclass the Bulls in a mismatch involving teams who have won the championship 12 times between them.
While fly-half Mo’unga (20 points — he also slotted five conversions) and Reece (15) did most of the damage, locks Mitchell Dunshea and Scott Barrett also scored a try each.
Bulls skipper and fly-half Handre Pollard converted a try by centre Burger Odendaal and kicked two penalties for the overwhelmed home side.
Equality lasted 14 minutes before Mo’unga took advantage of a favourable bounce to score and the New Zealand outfit established a 26-6 advantage by half-time.
Reece scored his second try before Odendaal barged over near the posts and Pollard added the extra points to leave 20 points between the teams.
The Crusaders responded with tries from Reece and Barrett to become the second Kiwi side to humiliate the Bulls in Pretoria this season.
Waikato Chiefs dished out a 56-20 drubbing to the Bulls, who must face the Auckland Blues and Otago Highlanders during an Australasia tour starting next Friday.
Despite the scoreline, there will be areas of concern for Crusaders coach Scott Robertson as he prepares for a match against the Western Stormers in Cape Town next weekend.
The Christchurch outfit missed 18 tackles, conceded more than a dozen penalties and were guilty of some unforced handling errors.
“We had a plan and executed it satisfactorily,” said Crusaders skipper and loose forward Matt Todd. “We have often struggled in Pretoria so this was a sweet success.
“Apart from scoring seven tries, we scrambled well when under pressure and forced a number of crucial turnovers.”
Reece beamed with pride after receiving the man-of-the-match award for his hat-trick, which took his season try tally to nine, one less chart-topper Folau Fainga’a of the ACT Brumbies.
“We did not underestimate the Bulls and had to work hard for this victory. We were hurting at times out there but there was a lot of enjoyment in the end.”
Pollard was furious that his team fared so poorly in front of an undisclosed attendance that was clearly the biggest to watch the Bulls this season.
“The supporters created a wonderful atmosphere only for us to let them down badly. Let us give credit to the Crusaders, though, because they are an unbelievable team.
“We never created any momentum and spent most of the first half on the back foot. I believe we were better in the second half, but it was our opponents who kept scoring.”
Winning with a bonus point lifted the Crusaders — chasing a hat-trick of titles after defeating the Golden Lions in the previous two finals — to 47 points.
The Melbourne Rebels and the Bulls come next with 28 each and the Australian outfit occupying second place on points difference.