Crusaders give Chiefs timely reminder
Just as they did in the penultimate round last year, the Crusaders reminded the Chiefs that high standards need to be maintained every week to win in this competition.
Captain Kieran Read crossed the whitewash a minute before half-time then doubled his tally after the break. That followed a superb solo effort by Israel Dagg that saw the visitors trailing 31-8.
It wasn't long before centre Ryan Crotty secured a four-try bonus point and gave coach Todd Blackadder a chance to give the majority of his replacements over 20 minutes to stretch their legs.
The Crusaders climbed to fourth in the overall Super Rugby standings, securing their ticket to the playoffs, while the Chiefs will need to beat the Blues in their final regular season game to ensure a first-place finish.
Before making the trip to Eden Park next week they must rediscover the accuracy and cohesion that eluded them so badly in this embarrassing performance.
Dave Rennie's men are experts at creating pressure through sound tactical play and stout defence. For the opening 24 minutes they could nothing as poor discipline invited punishment from the boot of Dan Carter.
Only a try to wing Asaeli Tikoirotuma stopped the Crusaders from completely dominating the opening half, which ended with Read's try as the siren sounded.
From the opening whistle it was clear that Blackadder had inspired his squad to play with purpose and energy. Looking to weather the early onslaught, the Chiefs committed few players to the breakdown but were guilty of falling offside.
When they did get into position to strike, the Crusaders used suffocating defence then waited for the Chiefs to make their next mistake.
There were ominous signs for the visitors even before kick-off when co-captain Liam Messam was ruled out with a lower back injury and had to be replaced by Ross Filipo on the blindside.
The one-time Crusader was quick to make an impact but not in the way he would have liked. Inside the first minute he conceded a penalty, which was quickly followed by another that Carter slotted for an early lead.
Carter punished the poor discipline with a further nine points while his All Blacks deputy Aaron Cruden pulled back with his first, and only, penalty of the night to cut the deficit to 12-3.
By the time the Chiefs were caught offside a fourth time, referee Jonathan White began to lose his patience and warned that the next infringement would result in a yellow card.
Just as it looked as if nothing could go right for the Chiefs, they were gifted an opportunity when Dagg knocked on what should have been a routine catch in the back field.
It handed the visitors prime field position but it wasn't until a charged down kick saw them finally capitalise with a try to Tikoirotuma.
During the break it was found that lock Luke Romano's ankle had been severely sprained, prompting replacement Tom Donnelly to enter the fray.
Just as the first spell had started, the Chiefs were again quickly on the back foot after Bundee Aki dropped the restart.
It gave the Crusaders the position they needed to send Dagg over the whitewash as Carter reached 1501 Super Rugby points with the conversion.
Dagg was the catalyst for the next lethal assault on the Chiefs line, breaking through the defence he sent Read over for his second in the left corner with a deft off-load.
As Crotty darted across moments later, the Chiefs began to wonder how they would bounce back from such a belting to defend their title in the playoffs.
Charlie Ngatai earned his side a constellation try six minutes from time. Replacement Andrew Horrell gave the score line some respectability with his conversion from the touchline.
Tyler Bleyendaal completed the demolition with an intercept try as the full-time siren sounded.
Crusaders: 43 (Kieran Read 2, Israel Dagg, Ryan Crotty, Tyler Bleyendaal tries; Dan Carter 3 con, 4 pens)
Chiefs: 15 (Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Charlie Ngatai tries; Andrew Horrell con, Aaron Cruden pen)
HT: 19-8 Crusaders