Crusaders beat Hurricanes in top-of-the-table clash

The Crusaders have taken a major step towards defending their Super Rugby title with a table-topping 24-13 win over the Hurricanes in Christchurch.

A clinical performance in a Friday night match ruined as a spectacle by wet weather pushes the home side five points clear on top of the New Zealand conference and the overall standings.

The Hurricanes couldn't match the ruthless, mistake-free rugby of the understrength Crusaders, who were missing six of the 10 players named in the All Blacks squad to face France.

All three of their tries were close-range efforts, typifying a methodical performance that extends their winning run to nine matches.

The Hurricanes' 10-match winning streak is snapped, with the visitors paying the price for ill-discipline and throwing too many passes in conditions that didn't suit.

A late solo try from Hurricanes flanker Reed Prinsep robbed the Crusaders of a bonus point.

The Crusaders have beaten the Hurricanes 24-13 in a table-topping Super Rugby clash in Christchurch. Pic: Supplied

That could yet prove crucial as the Hurricanes have a game in hand and could yet overhaul their Kiwi arch-rivals to secure the coveted top qualifying spot.

The Barrett family dominated the first half, with Crusaders lock Scott Barrett scoring the only try while his All Blacks siblings Jordie and Beauden slotted penalties for the Hurricanes.

Up 7-6 at the break, the hosts clamped control of possession and gained favour in key decisions from Australian referee Angus Gardner, resulting in tries to prop Michael Ala'alatoa and No.8 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis.

Five-eighth Richie Mo'unga kept the Crusaders on the front foot with a slick kicking game, winning his tactical duel with All Blacks star Beauden Barrett.

The Crusaders' win was even meritorious as they lost backs Tim Bateman and Braydon Ennor to what appeared to be serious injuries.