Finishing the game reduced to 13 men with two in the sin-bin could not halt the BNZ Crusaders' momentum as they took a 48-21 over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Sunday (NZT).

It was another masterclass of Crusaders continuity play with left wing George Bridge securing a hat-trick of tries while fullback David Havili scored twice.

Captain Sam Whitelock was sin-binned in the 71st minute when retaliating with an elbow to the face of Cheetahs replacement Charles Marais who had taken Whitelock when he was in the air taking a ball.

Then as the Cheetahs looked to take advantage of his absence, replacement five-eighths Mitchell Hunt was sin-binned in the 77th minute for a cynical foul.

It was only then that the home side were able to score, with wing Sergeal Petersen crossing in the last play of the game.

While the Cheetahs never stopped attempting to move the ball it was their defensive play that was less impressive and in the second of Bridge's tries, he beat five players, anyone of whom should have been able to ground him.

Home captain Francois Venter said after the game, "Now we know why they are leading the competition. They have presence in contact and just when you think you've got them they move the ball again. The momentum was with them all the time."

Whitelock said it had been a tough game and both sides were tired by the end but he was delighted to get the win. "We have struggled against them in the past, especially over here. We've got another massive challenge next week against a team [the Bulls] we have also struggled with over here," he said.

After the opening try scored by Havili was responded to by a fine counter attack from the home side which put wing Raymond Rhule in, the BNZ Crusaders saw Bridge score in the 33rd minute. 

But then a controversial TMO ruling knocked the stuffing out of the home team and resulted in a 14-point turnaround.

It appeared prop Ox Nche, who had made a superb break, had set up Petersen with the perfect transfer to race in for a 36th minute try. But the final pass was checked with the TMO and he said he had been a forward pass.

From the scrum, the BNZ Crusaders moved the ball and a cross-kick from first five-eighths Richie Mo'unga found Bridge who bamboozled the home defence to run in for an impressive second try which gave the BNZ Crusaders a 22-7 half-time lead.

Suffering their own yellow card minutes into the second half when lock Armandt Koster infringed, the BNZ Crusaders were able to take advantage from a five-metre scrum on the Cheetahs line when Mo'unga cruised through wide open defence to score.

Seven minutes later, in the 53rd minute Nche scored. The BNZ Crusaders struck back with some strong surges by replacement forward Pete Samu, second five-eighths Ryan Crotty and lock Scott Barrett for Havili to score his second.

Then, from the restart, the BNZ Crusaders stormed back on attack and halfback Mitchell Drummond was rewarded for his support play to take an in-pass from Havili to score.

In the 68th minute at a penalty near halfway, Hunt motioned to kick for touch but then turned, took a tap and moved the ball to the left where Bridge took advantage of the Cheetahs' hesitation to score.

It was another dominant showing by the BNZ Crusaders but as Whitelock observed after the game, there were still areas to work on, most notably in the scrum and the lineout work.

 Cheetahs 21 (Raymond Rhule, Ox Nche, Sergeal Petersen tries; Niel Marais 3 con)

Crusaders 48 (David Havili 2, George Bridge 3, Richie Mo'unga, Mitchell Drummond tries; Mo'unga 5 con, pen). HT: 7-22

Match report courtesy of