Crusaders have been beaten by the Reds in the final series 17-16. Reds first five-eighths Quade Cooper kicked the match-winning penalty, awarded after whistle-happy Australian referee Stu Dickinson contentiously pinged Crusaders captain Richie McCaw for hands in the ruck in the 80th minute, to seal the Queenslanders’ 11th win from 13 matches.

With 58 points the Reds have bolted four points clear of the Blues, who had a bye this week, at the top of the standings with three rounds remaining, while the Stormers are third on 52 points and the Crusaders fourth, a further three points adrift after suffering their fourth loss of the campaign.

McCaw’s men would have been aggrieved at the general standard of Dickinson’s officiating, but the captain refused to point the finger at the referee after the Reds scored two tries to one in the tightest of tussles.