New Zealand teams dominate Super Rugby as Crusaders stay unbeaten

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The Canterbury Crusaders are vying to retain their unbeaten Super Rugby record and ensure they finish top of the regular season ladder

The Canterbury Crusaders remained unbeaten as New Zealand teams dominated Super Rugby this weekend ahead of June's British and Irish Lions tour.

The seven-time champions smashed leading South African contenders Western Stormers 57-24 in Christchurch as Kiwi teams won all four of their encounters.

George Bridge claimed a hat-trick and Kieran Read added a double in the Crusaders eight-try romp to remain unbeaten after eight matches.

The Crusaders raced to a 36-3 lead by half-time as the Cape Town-based Stormers suffered back-to-back losses after falling to the Golden Lions last week.

The Christchurch team lead the powerful New Zealand conference by three points from defending champions Wellington Hurricanes and Waikato Chiefs.

A hat-trick of tries for centre Vince Aso helped the Hurricanes to a 56-21 thumping of Australian conference leaders ACT Brumbies in Napier on Friday.

The Hurricanes scored eight tries to three in the bonus-point win, piling on 42 unanswered second-half points after trailing 14-21 at the break.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen was in the stands to run his eye over the Hurricanes ahead of the upcoming British and Irish Lions tour.

"There's so many guys putting their hands up it's great," Hansen said.

In Perth, All Black fly-half Aaron Cruden kicked the Chiefs to a grinding 16-7 win over the endangered Western Force, landing a conversion and three penalty goals with both sides finishing with a try each.

In winning, the Chiefs stretched New Zealand teams' dominance over Australian opposition to 14-0 in this season's competition.

- 'Emotional' Kings -

The Force, with their future Super Rugby participation under major threat over SANZAAR restructuring for the 2018 season, fought to the end but the Chiefs were too strong.

The Otago Highlanders were the fourth Kiwi winners with a 40-15 bonus-point victory over Japan's Sunwolves in Invercargill.

South Africa's threatened Southern Kings rose above their off-field turmoil with a spirited 26-24 upset win over the New South Wales Waratahs in Sydney.

The Port Elizabeth-based Kings, who are also fighting to stay in next year's competition along with the Central Cheetahs, fought back from 17-0 down to win only their fourth game in two years.

"It has been an absolutely emotional tour for us with all the news regarding Super Rugby," Kings skipper Lionel Cronje said.

The Golden Lions are the clear leaders of the second South Africa conference, edging out the Jaguares of Argentina 24-21 win in Johannesburg.

Melbourne Rebels, another team under threat of being culled, drew 9-9 with South Africa's Coastal Sharks in Durban.

The Northern Bulls won the all-South African encounter with the Cheetahs 20-14 in Pretoria.

The Auckland Blues and Queensland Reds had byes this weekend.