The Crusaders secured their 12th Super 14 rugby semifinals appearance in style with a bonus-point, five-try 40-22 win over the Brumbies in a murky Christchurch tonight.
The Crusaders, sixth on the table going into today's game, played at pace and defended stoutly to stifle a Brumbies team who always looked threatening.
Playing much of the second half in another Christchurch pea souper, the Crusaders put together a complete performance to break a three-game losing streak and assure themselves of yet another play-offs appearance.
Dominant in the set pieces, and with a running game which time and again pierced the Brumbies' defence, the Crusaders win was sealed with some superb defensive work.
"I thought we defended pretty well," captain Richie McCaw said on Sky televison afterwards. ``It's something we've put a lot of focus on this year, and it's starting to pay dividends.
"I'm pretty proud of the way the boys went -- the last three weeks have been tough, but this is the right end of the season to play well."
Some scrappy Crusaders' play early on was reflected in first five-eighth Dan Carter's kicking, as he pulled two early penalties wide. The Brumbies capitalised on the let-offs with some sharp running, Adam Ashley-Cooper looking particularly dangerous down the left wing.
But it was the Crusaders who opened the scoring after 12 minutes, Daniel Bowden moving the ball wide and Zac Guildford straightening play with a scintillating run before linking with McCaw, whose inside pass found Sean Maitland to touch down.
Carter finally found his kicking boots to add the extras but the Brumbies replied barely five minutes later as the Crusaders lapsed again into the laboured passing that had earlier gifted the Brumbies a couple of intercepts.
A hint of offside in both had saved the Crusaders in the opening minutes, but there were no such concerns as Brumbies centre Tyrone Smith latched onto Bowden's looping pass to canter in.
Brumbies second five-eighth Matt Giteau's conversion made it 7-7, but two tries in 10 minutes to the Crusaders stretched out the lead to 19-7.
No 8 Kieran Read featured in both, showing impressive pace to chase down Guildford's kick ahead and slide over in the tackle, then finding tighthead prop Owen Franks with his final pass after a rampaging run to give the Crusaders their third try.
Giteau and Carter traded penalties, and the Crusaders went to the halftime break with a handy 22-10 lead.