Sevu Reece crossed for two tries and set up another for Braydon Ennor as the Crusaders sent a chilling message to the rest of the Super Rugby teams with a convincing 36-10 victory over South Africa's Lions in Christchurch on Friday.
Reece was a late call-up by the Crusaders after he had a contract in Ireland cancelled due to a court appearance for assaulting his girlfriend. He has taken his second chance at a professional career with both hands.
George Bridge also scored two tries within the space of two second half-minutes while Richie Mo'unga celebrated his 50th appearance and a new three-year contract with 11 points for the nine-times champions.
Ruan Combrinck scored an intercept try for the visitors, who had lost to the Crusaders in both of the last two finals and while they caused some issues at the scrum, they were rarely able to put sustained pressure on the home side.
The Crusaders moved to 39 points with the victory, 12 ahead of the Wellington Hurricanes, who have the second-best points total (27) but are fourth in the overall standings due to the conference system.
The Hurricanes host the Waikato Chiefs on Saturday.
The Christchurch-based side initially looked to be partaking in a contested training run in the opening 10 minutes as every pass went to a team mate and every runner made ground.
Ennor's try was set up by Reece's perfectly timed run and pass that committed three defenders, while Mo'unga slotted a nearly penalty.
After another sweeping movement downfield, a dropped pass by David Havili with the line open, however, appeared to swing the momentum back to the Lions, who spent much of the next 10 minutes camped inside the home side's territory.
Despite a succession of penalties for off-side or scrum collapses, they shunned shots at goal until Jantjies decided to go for points to show for their dominance and slotted a 19th-minute penalty.
The match was then played in the middle of the pitch for much of the next 20 minutes before Reece showcased his power by smashing through tackles by flanker Kwagga Smith and hooker Robbie Coetzee to give the home side a 17-3 lead at halftime.
Bridge then blew the game open with two tries within the space of two minutes after the break to extend the lead to 31-3 with about 30 minutes remaining.
Reece scored his second try after Jordan Taufua had put him into space and he put a delicate kick ahead and beat the Lions defenders to the ball to skid over and end the scoring.