Crusaders back on top after demolishing Stormers

Winger George Bridge's first-half hat-trick has set up the Crusaders for a relentless 57-24 Super Rugby win over the Stormers in Christchurch.

The Crusaders ran in five tries in the opening 40 minutes, All Blacks skipper Kieran Read grabbing two, as they had the game won with a 36-3 lead at the break.

The win leaves the Crusaders atop the New Zealand conference and the overall standings, the only unbeaten team after eight weeks.

The Stormers, coming off a 29-16 loss last week to the Kings, sorely tested the Crusaders' defence early, but could only come away with a Robert du Preez penalty.

They also lost inside centre Dan du Plessis to a shoulder injury after 10 minutes, and the Crusaders pounced quickly when they finally established some field position.

They built phases with patience, then Bridge hit Ryan Crotty's offload at full speed, showing impressive strength and reach to score between the posts.

Bridge bagged his second as the half-hour mark approached, the Crusaders clinical with smart recycling from an attacking lineout and the Stormers caught short out wide.

Bridge's third came four minutes later, set up in acres of space by a looping long pass from young centre Jack Goodhue.

Read then did his bit with two tries in the last three minutes - the first out wide on the left, the second on the right.

It took less than a minute from the restart for the Stormers to haul themselves back into the match, winger Cheslin Kolbe snaffling a rash Richie Mo'unga skip pass to cross untouched.

A wicked fend left Mo'unga sprawling and set Bjorn Basson up for the Stormers' second, as the Crusaders struggled to secure front-foot ball.

The Crusaders hit back with two tries as the hour mark ticked over, Michael Alaalatoa burrowing over from close range then Pete Samu sprinting 80 metres for an intercept try.

The Stormers replied through replacement prop Frans Malherbe, but Manasa Mataele gave the Crusaders the last say when he heard down the left touchline with two minutes remaining.


Photo: Photosport Pete Samu of the Crusaders runs in for a try during the Super Rugby match, Crusaders V Stormers, AMI Stadium, Christchurch, New Zealand, 22nd April 2017.