Perennial title contenders the Canterbury Crusaders thrashed defending champions the Waikato Chiefs 43-15 Friday to give their play-off chances a massive boost.
The Crusaders scored five tries to two, including a brace to skipper Kieran Read, as superboot Dan Carter added another record to his list of accomplishments.
Carter, already the highest points scorer in Test rugby, became the first player to ever reach 1,500 points in Super rugby, notching four penalties and three conversions.
Fullback Israel Dagg was another standout, scoring one try and setting up two more to dispel any concerns that he is out of form as the business end of the season looms.
But it was the overall display from the seven-time champions that will have coach Todd Blackadder purring, after his charges dominated the breakdown and set pieces.
They not only inflicted the Chiefs first defeat to New Zealand opposition this season but humbled the title-holders in the process.
With eight teams vying for the last three play-off positions, the bonus point win places the Crusaders in a strong position to make the top six.
They can secure fourth pace and a home play-off with a win over the Hurricanes next week.
For the Chiefs, who were already guaranteed a top six place, the loss means the Northern Bulls or the ACT Brumbies could still topple them from top spot on the Super 15 ladder.
The comprehensive nature of the defeat means they will be looking to bounce back strongly against the Auckland Blues next week in the final round-robin match.
The Crusaders punished them at the breakdown from the start, drawing infringements which gifted Carter four penalty goals in the first 20 minutes.
Cruden, the heir apparent to Carter as All Blacks pivot, put the Chiefs back in the game when he charged down a kick then regathered to set up Asaeli Tikoirotuma's try but it was a rare highlight for his side.
Just before half-time, Read burst out from the back of a scrum to force his way over the tryline in a crush of bodies, with the television referee ruling he had not been held up in-goal.
Dagg scored a second for the Crusaders' just one minute after the restart, pouncing after a poor Chiefs' lineout and scything through the defence.
He left the opposition flat footed again four minutes later to create Read's second, leaving the Chiefs down 31-8.
The rout continued when the Crusaders worked the ball wide through Dagg, who found a diving Ryan Crotty in the corner to seal a bonus point.
Charlie Ngatai managed a consolation try for the Chiefs, only for Tyler Bleyendaal to pile on further agony when he raced away for a 60-metre intercept try in the final minute.