What a difference eight months can make in Super Rugby.
The Crusaders dispatched the Hurricanes 33-16 in Christchurch on Sunday afternoon with a performance fuelled by their two-point loss to the same side at the same venue last year.
Crusaders coaches and players admitted the defeat, which snapped a 36-match unbeaten run on home soil, was raised during preparation the week, adding an extra edge to an already explosive rivalry.
Clearly, it worked. The Crusaders outscored the Hurricanes five tries to two in a comfortable bonus point win in front of about 12,000 fans at Orangetheory Stadium.
Not only did it propel the reigning champions to a 2-0 start, it condemned the Hurricanes to an 0-2 start to Super Rugby Aotearoa yet again.
The game was as good as over when Crusaders hooker Codie Taylor pounced on a rotten Ricky Riccatelli lineout throw early in the second half.
His second try of the game, and third of the young season, put the hosts 33-6 up after 47 minutes, reminding everyone they remain the benchmark.
To add to the Hurricanes’ woes, hooker Asafo Aumua left the field holding his right-arm early in the second half with what appeared to be a serious injury.
Aumua, so dominant against the Blues last week, suffered the injury attempting to tackle loosehead prop Joe Moody.
In a game both teams lost captain’s referrals, the game lost its shape after the Crusaders blew the game open and went to their bench early in the second spell.
Down 26-6 at the split, it was always going to be a mountain to climb for the Hurricanes, and that was before the weather turned and rain began to fall.
Riccatelli and Peter Umaga-Jensen pegged back consolation tries but the Hurricanes never threatened to drag back the hosts, who did a fine job keeping powerful midfielders Ngani Laumape and Umaga-Jensen quiet much of the night.
As good as some of the Crusaders’ tries were, the play of the day arguably deserves to go to wings Sevu Reece and Leicester Fainga’anuku.
After all, down 3-0 early, it was their remarkable 80 metre scramble which denied Hurricanes pivot Jackson Garden-Bachop an intercept try.
Garden-Bachop looked certain to put the Hurricanes 8-0 up in the 11th minute, only for Reece and Fainga’anuku to bundle him out as he attempted to touch down.
The Crusaders took a quarter of the match to fire any shots, and instead found themselves firmly on the backfoot against a fired up Hurricanes side.
Jordie Barrett kicked the visitors to a 6-0 lead after 14 minutes, although the Hurricanes would have been up by more had the bounce of the ball gone their way when Ardie Savea, having carved open the hosts, kicked for wing Wes Goosen.
Instead, having weathered the storm, the Crusaders got a sniff when Savea was yellow carded for dragging down a driving maul on his own goal line.
A few minutes later, hooker Taylor crashed over from a quick-tap, the first of four first-half tries in the space of 17 minutes.
Taylor played a big hand in the second – scored by Richie Mo’unga – too, slicing the Hurricanes open and feeding Mitchell Drummond, who popped a sharp ball to Mo’unga.
The Hurricanes promptly challenged the final pass, only for the TMO to rule it didn’t go forward out of the hands.
Up 14-6 after 25 minutes, the Crusaders were humming, earning repeat penalties and drilling the frustrated Hurricanes deep inside their own 22.
Crusaders flanker Ethan Blackadder dived over from close range on the half hour mark, before captain Scott Barrett scored on the brink of halftime.
Barrett’s try, finished out wide, was arguably the pick of them, given the hosts strung double-digit phases together, manipulating the Hurricanes’ defence with their accuracy.
Crusaders 33 (Codie Tylor 2, Richie Mo’unga, Ethan Blackadder, Scott Barrett tries; Richie Mo’unga 4 con, Fergus Burke con) Hurricanes 16 (Ricky Riccatelli, Peter Umaga-Jensen tries; Jordie Barrett 2 pens). HT: 26-6