Crusaders' penalties freeze out Force
Colin Slade passes the ball during a team training session in Wellington, on September 28, 2011 - by William West
The seven-time champions rolled over Force as temperatures dropped to zero at their home ground, leaving the Crusaders second on the Super 15 standings behind South Africa's Coastal Sharks.
The Force, the surprise package in this year's Super 15, can still make the play-offs for the first time ever but will most likely need to win two of their final three fixtures.
For Todd Blackadder's Crusaders, a team bristling with All Blacks, the win puts them in the familiar position of building momentum towards the end of the season.
Unusually, it was two penalty tries in the last 10 minutes which decided the match, after referee Mike Fraser penalised the Force for collapsing line-out maul then twisting a scrum after the siren.
The Crusaders had early chances but could only edge ahead through two Colin Slade penalties as mistakes and solid defending blunted their attack.
Winger Johnny McNicholl made the breakthrough in the 24th minute, swooping onto an Israel Dagg pass to score in the corner after some patient build-up play.
Another Slade penalty made it 16-0 at the break, with the Crusaders claiming 85 percent of territory in the first half.
The Force hit back in the 48th minute when Dane Haylett-Petty spun through three defenders to score between the posts but it was not enough and the Crusaders held them scoreless for the rest of the match.