The win was the Crusaders' 24th in a row in home games, extending their tournament record. In the other match Friday, the Cape Town, South African-based Stormers beat the Melbourne Rebels 41-24, ending a three-match losing streak.
The Stormers scored three tries in 11 minutes in the second half. Center Ruhan Nel scored two tries to lead the South Africans. The Highlanders created the possibility of a massive upset when captain Ben Smith, in his 150th Super Rugby game, sidestepped through a weak Crusaders defense to score the first try after only three minutes.
A subsequent penalty made the lead 10-0 and the Highlanders were still in the lead, 10-7, at halftime. But the Crusaders ran away with the ninth-round match in a one-sided second half, scoring five tries, including a penalty try to leave the Highlanders without a win since the second round.
"We weren't happy, especially in the first 20 minutes," Crusaders captain Sam Whitelock said. "Full credit to them, they were pumpled up, especially for (Ben Smith's) 150th game. "They put us under pressure, beating us around the corner, beating us to the breakdown. We had adjust to that but the best thing is we did, we trusted our process and our system and we managed to come over the top of them."
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