It was the first time the Crusaders have played the Highlanders in Dunedin in 840 days, after last year’s fixture got cancelled.
It was the visitors who were on the board first through a Richie Mo’unga penalty in the 10th minute, before the in-form Will Jordan, scored in the corner off a Leicester Faingaanuku break.
It didn’t take long for the Highlanders to fight back and it was through Shannon Frizell. Their next try was a cracker, coming off an overthrow at the line out from Liam Coltman, Aaron Smith picked it up and made the break before eventually going out wide to Ngatungane Punivai to score on the right flank. Three more penalties were kicked in the first spell and it was the Highlanders with a 17-14 lead at the break.
The Crusaders pulled away in the second half, running in four unanswered tries to take the victory, with Highlanders pivot Mitch Hunt kicking their only points of the second forty. But the scoreline wasn't reflective on how well the Highlanders played.
Next week sees the top of the table clash between the Crusaders and the Blues at Orangetheory Stadium in Christchurch on Saturday night, while the Highlanders are away to the Hurricanes on Sunday afternoon.
Scorers: Highlanders 20 (Shannon Frizell, Ngatungane Punivai tries, Mitch Hunt 2 cons, 2 pens) Crusaders 40 (Will Jordan 2, Tom Christie 2, Sevu Reece tries, Richie Mo’unga 3 cons, 3 pens)