Kris Shannon reviews all the Super Rugby from the week where the Blues look the form team in the competition.
Back of the week - Rieko Ioane
If last year offered a tantalising teaser of Rieko Ioane's talent, making six appearances for the Blues and earning a couple of caps on the All Blacks' end-of-year tour, Thursday night provided the full experience. Still 19, Ioane showed in scoring a hat-trick the type of finishing abilities generally present only in polished products, turning what could have been a tight game into a rout. Ioane finished the night with 144 metres gained, four defenders beaten and five clean breaks, displaying requisite power and pace to go straight through opponents and beat them on the outside. The kid's going to be all right.
Forward of the week - Scott Fardy
Speaking of teenagers, Scott Fardy would have been 15 the last time the Brumbies won in Christchurch. Now 32, the Wallabies veteran came desperately close to helping his side break that drought on Saturday night, sparking the Brumbies' second-half resurgence in the only way he knew how.
Fardy carried strongly, defended flawlessly and made himself a menace at every breakdown, outshining a Crusaders pack featuring a few All Blacks.
The flanker led both teams with 14 tackles to keep the Crusaders in check and, with those efforts going in vain, didn't deserve to be on the beaten side.
Coach killer - The Sunwolves
Let's start with the positives. It looked a nice afternoon in Tokyo, the stands were pretty full and the Sunwolves outscored the defending champions 12-0 for an entire quarter of the game. But, aside from that, this was a troubling start for a team who last year conceded an average of 41.8 points per match in their maiden Super Rugby campaign. Considering, on Saturday against the Hurricanes, the Sunwolves were at home and should have been fresh and full of enthusiasm, what's going to happen in April when they travel to New Zealand to play the Crusaders, Highlanders and Chiefs in consecutive weeks?
The Fab Four
The Blues! On top of the (Fab Four) table! What a world. And, who knows, based on the performance they produced to kick off the competition on Thursday night, maybe this won't be a one-week arrangement. You're not supposed to get carried away after one round, but let's absolutely get carried away after one round: their win over the Rebels was the best effort from any team this weekend. The Chiefs, seriously, will be worried.
Might as well permanently reserve this space for whoever has the fortune of facing the Sunwolves every week. What can be taken out of a match in which the defending champions scored 13 tries and 83 points in 60 minutes? Well, the competition will know the Hurricanes have lost none of the attacking abilities that last season carried them to the title- and that was without Beauden Barrett running the show. But their season starts next week.
The Chiefs were on the back foot for most of the night but there's something to be said for a team winning when below their best, particularly when that victory snapped a six-match losing streak against the Highlanders. In pinching three tries and relying on a defence that bent without breaking, the Chiefs claimed the first Kiwi derby of the season, a result that could be invaluable if the conference becomes as competitive as last year.
We couldn't pick all Kiwi teams. Not yet, anyway. The Reds secured the best result of the rest with their rousing win over the Sharks on Friday night, scoring two tries in the final 20 minutes to overcome a couple of yellow cards and defeat an opponent who sneaked into last year's playoffs. Considering the Reds are coming off a campaign in which they won only three times in 15 matches, we'll give them this one.
Force v Reds, Perth,11.30pm
Chiefs v Blues, Hamilton, 7.35pm
Hurricanes v Rebels, Wellington, 5.15pm
Highlanders v Crusaders, Dunedin, 7.35pm
Sunwolves v Kings, Singapore,11.55pm
Lions v Waratahs, Johannesburg, 2.05am
Stormers v Jaguares, CapeTown, 4.15am
Cheetahs v Bulls, Bloemfontein, 6.30am