Crusaders move to top of the table

Scott Barrett's versatility as he produced a tireless effort at blindside flanker in the Crusaders' 45-17 win over the Western Force in Christchurch should make All Blacks coach Steve Hansen take notice.

Barrett, who played four tests for the All Blacks at lock last year, scored a try and impressed with his work rate on attack and defence in the No. 6 jersey as the Crusaders won their fifth successive game.

Digby Ioane, Matt Todd, Luke Romano, Codie Taylor, David Havili and Ben Funnell also crossed for the home side with flyhalf Mitch Hunt slotting four conversions, while replacement Marty McKenzie added another.

RNZ reports wingers Alex Newsome and Chance Peni crossed for the Force with flyhalf Jonno Lance converting both tries and adding a penalty.

The match failed to really get any flow with persistent rain in the second half and referee Rohan Hoffmann growing increasingly frustrated with both side's scrums. He issued a succession of penalties and sinbinned replacement Crusaders prop Tim Perry.

The Crusaders, who had to overcome large deficits in the second half of their last three matches, on Friday scored four tries in the first 30 minutes.

Ioane opened the scoring after two minutes when scrumhalf Mitchell Drummond exploited a gap from a ruck on halfway before Todd forced the ball at the base of the post for his team's second try.

As was typical for much of the game, the Force refused to allow the Crusaders to get too far ahead when winger Newsome intercepted a loose pass and sprinted 60 metres to reduce the gap to 14-10.

The Crusaders then produced a double strike when Barrett barrelled over following an attacking lineout while Romano pounced on the ball over the line to score a try with the Force players dithering about what to do.

The Force again reduced the deficit on the stroke of halftime when right winger Peni crossed after a succession of attacking scrums to make his side realise they were still in the game at 28-17 down.

Persistent rain in the second half, however, turned the match into a dour arm wrestle and Taylor's 49th minute try ensured the home side were unlikely to be caught.

The Crusaders then exploited their own man advantage in the final 10 minutes when Force flanker Isa Naisarani was sinbinned with Havili and Funnell scoring.