Flyhalf Dan Carter scored a try among 20 points as the Crusaders beat the Queensland Reds 38-9 in the Super 15 quarter-finals yesterday to edge closer to their first Super Rugby title since 2008.
Carter scored the second of four tries by the Christchurch-based Crusaders and kicked three conversions and three penalties - six goals from eight attempts - to reward his team's physical domination of the Reds, who were champions two years ago.
The Crusaders will play either the Hamilton-based Chiefs or Pretoria-based Bulls in next weekend's semi-finals depending on the outcome of today's match between the ACT Brumbies and Bloemfontein-based Cheetahs.
If the third-ranked Brumbies beat the sixth-ranked Cheetahs, the Crusaders will play defending champions the Chiefs. But if the Cheetahs win they will travel to South Africa to play the Bulls, who are two-time champions.
The Crusaders will face either of those assignments with confidence after yesterday's comprehensive win. From the start they physically overpowered the Reds in every area.
"That was pretty pleasing," Crusaders captain Kieran Read said. "I guess it's good to hit your straps at this time of year. It was a great start from our guys which set the tone pretty early and it continued on from there.
"I think in finals games defence is where your character shows and probably where it's won. Certainly, we stepped up there from last week and I guess the conditions probably helped," he added. "We were able to play a bit of free-flowing footy which is nice as well."
The only Queenslanders to make a significant impact were scrumhalf Will Genia, who placed himself defensively in the backfield to take Crusaders' kicks and who was steady in that effort.
Lock James Horwill returned to the Reds' lineup, along with Genia, after leading the Wallabies in their three-test series against the British and Irish Lions. He had an unusually subdued game, hovering mostly in midfield, and was substituted after 60 minutes.
In contrast, All Blacks captain Richie McCaw took the field as a replacement in the 65th minute to end an eight match "sabbatical" absence from top-line rugby.
He carried the ball over the advantage line with his first touch, helping to set up the Crusaders' final try and the second of the night to centre Crotty.
The Crusaders will now attempt to end a title drought which goes back to 2008 when they won their seventh championship, following those they achieved in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2005 and 2006.
They remain unbeaten in play-off matches on their home ground in Christchurch where the Reds haven't won any game since 1998.