Crusaders crush Highlanders in Melbourne while Richie Mo’unga deploys the clinic, Scott Robertson, All Blacks

No razor, no worries. The Crusaders are back in business after star playmaker Richie Mo’unga led his team to an impressive 52-15 victory over the Highlanders to open Friday night’s Super Round in Melbourne.

The 2022 Super Rugby Pacific champions were heavy losers to the Chiefs in the first round but found their groove at AAMI Park, where all 12 teams will play over three days.

The Crusaders were without their head coach Scott “Razor” Robertson, who stayed behind in New Zealand due to a death in the family.

But even without the esteemed coach who will take over the All Blacks as top contenders after this year’s World Cup, the Crusaders were far too disciplined and responded well after last week’s shock home defeat.

“I think for us last week it was a bit of a reminder of how hard it is to win these competitions,” said captain Scott Barrett. “It was a good lesson in where we need to be to win this competition.”

Sevu Reece scored a first-half try to get the wheels in motion for a big win over South Island rivals the Highlanders at Melbourne’s AAMI Park. Photo: by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

All Blacks playmaker Mo’unga set up the game’s try, which was scored by full-back Fergus Burke in the 31st minute.

Mo’unga conceded a weak kick from the Highlanders’ England five-eighth Freddie Burns and kicked in and around the defense in a 40-yard burst before dumping on halfback Mitchell Drummond, who found Burke in the blink of an eye.

A successful conversion from Mo’unga led to a 17-3 after an earlier attempt by winger Sevu Reece.

“It was great to get the win and more importantly play some footy as the Chiefs played everything last weekend,” Mo’unga told Stan Sport.

“We wanted to come out and prevail against the Highlanders and I think we did a good job.

“I was pretty disappointed in myself as a driver last week that we didn’t put ourselves in the right areas of the field so today is very satisfying.”

The Crusaders made it 24-3 by the break, with prop Joe Moody showing trump after 40 minutes as Christchurch’s men hammered the ball over the line.

The Highlanders couldn’t have had a worse start to the second half as Mo’unga slotted in a perfectly weighted free kick from center David Havili.

Things started to get really ugly as the Crusaders easily pushed through their forwards before their backs collected the loot with Havili himself next in the 47th minute.

Tall winger Leicester Fainga’anuku then raced across the line to allow the scoreboard to pass the 50 point mark.

Highlanders fans cheered for two late tries, both scored by Josh Timu off-kicks.

Folau Fakatava followed through with the first before Thomas Umaga-Jensen, one of the Highlanders’ best, delivered the second for his center partner.

However, with that result following a 60-20 opening defeat to the Blues, their season is already looking in shaky shape. Crusaders crush Highlanders in Melbourne while Richie Mo'unga deploys the clinic, Scott Robertson, All Blacks

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