Super Rugby has returned in all its glory in 2015 and here we take a look at the third round of games, focusing on the New Zealand franchises with the upcoming British & Irish Lions tour in mind.
All five Kiwi outfits were in action this weekend and there is little doubt which game was the pick of the round as the two-time champion Chiefs faced off with the seven-time champion Crusaders.
And it was the Waikato-based Chiefs that took full advantage of the home crowd in Hamilton to secure an impressive 40-16 victory.
Fly-half Aaron Cruden pulled the strings to impressive effect while landing six of nine kicks at goal for an individual 15-point haul.
The Chiefs crossed for five tries in all with current All Blacks Sonny Bill Williams and Augustine Pulu both amongst the try-scorers in an impressive victory.
For Richie McCaw and the Crusaders that was a second defeat in the opening three rounds, Andrew Ellis their sole try scorer while Colin Slade added 11 points from the kicking tee.
Victory means the Chiefs are a perfect three from three but they do not top the New Zealand standings in the early stages due to the Hurricanes’ impressive start.
The Wellington-based franchise were very impressive in claiming a 42-13 victory over the Western Force in Perth, running in five tries of their own.
All Black wingers Julian Savea and Cory Jane claimed a score each in the victory while No.8 Victor Vito also crossed the whitewash, fly-half Beauden Barrett landing five kicks at goal in the success before being withdrawn as a precaution after a minor knock to his knee.
The Dunedin-based Highlanders claimed their first win in 2015 after a bye in week one and a narrow defeat to the Crusaders in week two as they saw off the Reds at home.
James O’Connor – who started at fly-half for Australia in all three Tests against the Lions in 2013 – impressed on his first Super Rugby start for the Reds but Waisake Naholo plus the combined boots of Marty Banks and Hayden Parker sealed a 20-13 win.
It was less good news for the Blues though as they had to settle for a losing bonus point in a narrow 25-24 defeat to the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
All Blacks Jerome Kaino and Charlie Faumuina both crossed for tries but Cornal Hendricks’ double and late penalty from Joe Pietersen broke Auckland hearts to seal a fine victory.
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