The Crusaders have bounced back from last week’s loss to the Chiefs in resounding fashion by thumping the Highlanders 52-15 in the opening game of the Melbourne Super Round.
All Blacks first five-eighth Richie Mo'unga set up the try of the match, scored by fullback Fergus Burke in the 31st minute.
Mo'unga scooped up a poor kick by the Highlanders English five-eighth Freddie Burns and stepped in and around the defence in a 40m burst before off-loading to halfback Mitchell Drummond, who found Burke on the fly.
A successful conversion by Mo'unga opened the scoreline up to 17-3 after an earlier try by winger Sevu Reece.
"It was awesome to get the win and more importantly play some footy as the Chiefs played all the footy last weekend," Mo'unga told Stan Sport.
"We wanted to come out and impose ourselves against the Highlanders and I think we did a good job.
"I was pretty disappointed in myself as the driver last week, not putting us in the right areas of the field so today is very satisfying."
The Crusaders made it 24-3 by the break with prop Joe Moody coming up trumps at the 40 minute mark as the men from Christchurch mauled the ball over the line.
The Highlanders couldn't have got off to a worse start in the second half when Mo'unga pounced on a perfectly-weighted kick by centre David Havili into the in-goal.
Things started to get really ugly with the Crusaders making easy inroads through their forwards, before their backs collected the spoils with Havili himself next across in the 47th minute.
Big winger Leicester Fainga'anuku then barrelled across the line for the scoreboard to tick past the 50-point mark.
Highlanders fans could cheer two late tries, both scored by Josh Timu off kicks.
Folau Fakatava put through the first before Thomas Umaga-Jensen, among the Highlanders' best, delivered the second for his centre partner.
However with this result coming after an opening 60-20 loss to the Blues, their season already looks in a shaky state.
Crusaders 52 (Sevu Reece, Fergus Burke, Codie Taylor 2, David Havili, Leicester Fainga’nuku tries, Richie Mo’unga try, 7 con, 1 pen) Highlanders 15 (Josh Timu 2 tries, Sam Gilbert pen)
Referee: Nic Berry
Assistant Referees: Ben O’Keeffe, Angus Mabey
1: Joe Moody 2: Codie Taylor (VC) 3: Tamaiti Williams 4: Scott Barrett (C) 5: Sam Whitelock 6: Ethan Blackadder 7: Tom Christie 8: Christian Lio-Willie 9: Mitchell Drummond 10: Richie Mo'unga 11: Leicester Fainga'anuku 12: David Havili 13: Jack Goodhue 14: Sevu Reece15: Fergus Burke
Reserves: 16. Brodie McAlister 17. George Bower 18. Seb Calder 19. Zach Gallagher 20. Sione Havili Talitui 21. Noah Hotham* 22. Braydon Ennor 23. Macca Springer.
1. Ayden Johnstone 2. Andrew Makalio 3. Jermaine Ainsley 4. Paripari Parkinson 5. Will Tucker 6. Billy Harmon (C) 7. Sean Withy 8. Nikora Broughton 9. Kemara Hauiti-Parapara 10. Freddie Burns 11. Connor Garden-Bachop 12. Thomas Umaga-Jensen 13. Josh Timu 14. Jonah Lowe 15. Sam Gilbert
Reserves: 16. Rhys Marshall 17. Daniel Lienert-Brown 18. Saula Mau 19. Max Hicks 20. James Lentjes 21. Folau Fakatava 22. Mitch Hunt 23. Mosese Dawai
And that’s why they are the defending champs. #SuperRugbyPacific #CRUvHIG pic.twitter.com/rSDzIcaks2— Super Rugby Pacific (@SuperRugby) March 3, 2023