The Crusaders claimed an emphatic 40-20 win over the Brumbies in Christchurch on Saturday.
The Saders are notoriously slow starters, and were being written off earlier this season, only to return to form with their fourth successive win.
It was the manner of victory, though, that will have others taking notice, as they totally dominated a Brumbies team that had done the same to the Chiefs only a week earlier.
McCaw was colossal on his return, playing 80 minutes and making the most tackles on the pitch, but it was the Saders performance at the breakdown that won them the game. The Brumbies were penalised on numerous occassions and Colin Slade made them pay.
Crusaders – Tries: Johnny McNicholl, Nemani Nadolo, Luke Whitelock. Conversions: Colin Slade, Willi Heinz. Penalties: Colin Slade (7).
Brumbies – Tries: Stephen Moore, Pat McCabe. Conversions: Christian Leali'ifano (2). Penalties: Nic White (2).
Crusaders – 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Ryan Crotty (c), 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Richie McCaw, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Subs: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 Tim Perry, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Tom Taylor, 23 Nafi Tuitavake.
Brumbies – 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Joe Tomane, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Leali'ifano, 11 Robbie Coleman, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (c), 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Jordan Smiler, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 Ruaidhri Murphy, 19 Jack Whetton, 20 Tom McVerry, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 Andrew Smith, 23 Pat McCabe.
Photo: Martin Hunter/Getty Images