Crusaders coach Scott Robertson credited an all-round defensive effort for his side's 25-8 win over the Blues in Auckland on Friday.
After losing to the Chiefs in Hamilton last week, the Crusaders were keen to bounce back and they did just that, registering their 11th consecutive win over the Blues dating back to 2014.
While the three-time defending Super Rugby champions outscored the Blues three tries to one, Robertson felt his sides dominate at on defence and at the set-piece was crucial to their win.
"We made nearly 200 tackles and they [the Blues] didn't make 100, so there was a lot of defence," Robertson said.
"Our scrum was great and our lineout was superb a lot of the time. We left a lot of points out there too and it would have been nice to get a bonus point."
"It's exciting when you win and have left those opportunities out there, but more importantly the defence was really courageous and to keep them out at the end showed what it means for us to win up here."
The win momentarily lifts the Crusaders to the top of the New Zealand conference, although the Chiefs could overtake them with victory against the Sunwolves on Saturday afternoon.
But that doesn't matter to Robinson, who sent a stern warning to the rest of the competition.
"I think we're building growth in our game," he added. "There have been a few changes, with players understanding their roles in the team, especially the stuff with our kick/pressure game.
"Just getting our rhythm, taking opportunities, doing the simple things well. But the effort and the passion is there and that's the most exciting thing."
Robertson also heaped praise on young flanker Cullen Grace, who started in his first match of the season.
Grace made 19 tackles and won two turnovers in the match while stealing three lineouts.
"It's probably a bit earlier than we thought with Cullen, allowing him to play at this level, with a couple of debuts off the bench and then a start tonight.
"I thought he looked nowhere near out of place, he's a big boy, he's a great athlete, can anticipate the game, but you can see how good a shoulder he's got, he's tough."
The Crusaders are back in action on Friday when they host the Highlanders at Orangetheory Stadium.
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