Kris Shannon reviews all the Super Rugby from the week where the Chiefs are the inform team.
Back of the week
Tawera Kerr-Barlow - Chiefs
As four All Black halfbacks squared off this weekend, Tawera Kerr-Barlow was the best of the bunch. The No 9 had already helped the Chiefs past teams marshalled by Aaron Smith and Augustine Pulu, continuing his strong early- season form to complete the trifecta against TJ Perenara and the Hurricanes. Kerr-Barlow shone brightly on an appalling night in Hamilton, running rarely and instead controlling his side's attack with exemplary option-taking in his distribution. His kicking was also accurate throughout, with an inch-perfect grubber setting up what eventually proved the match-winning try.
Forward of the week
Elliot Dixon - Highlanders
Missing three first-choice forwards and facing a pack featuring four players who have worn the All Black jersey, Elliot Dixon helped ensure the Highlanders were never over-powered at EdenPark. His team might have been suffering from a horrendous injury toll but Dixon was his dependable self, making a match-high 15 tackles and winning a turnover as the Highlanders grimly defended their lead. The flanker's physicality was perfectly suited for a game that never reached great heights and Dixon was also a disruptive presence in the visitors' lineout as the Blues lost five from their own throw.
Patrick Tuipulotu - Blues
This is really a team award but Patrick Tuipulotu is the appropriate representative after the Blues' error-prone performance int heir loss to the Highlanders. Having, against all odds, worked their way into a position to steal the game, the Blues saw their opposition reduced to 14-men and had one last chance to cross for a match-winning try against a short-handed defence. Enter Tuipulotu who, in a routine carry within five metres of the
line, coughed up possession to commit his team's 24th and final turnover of the match, undoubtedly leaving Tana Umaga tearing his dreads out in the coaches' box.
The Fab Four
To be the best, you have to beat the best. And that's what the Chiefs did on Friday, ending the defending champions' 10-match winning streak in SuperRugby. After emerging unbeaten from their first three derbies, the Chiefs now won't meet another New Zealand until mid-May. Before that, they face a seven-match stretch featuring six teams who missed last year's playoffs, with a visit to the Stormers the only exception.
With the Reds holding a 20-7 lead after 60 minutes, the Crusaders had their opposition right where they wanted them. At least, lulling opponents into a false sense of security certainly seems like part of Scott Robertson's plan - in the final quarter of their last two games, his side have outscored their opposition 32-0. And in our first example of the
ridiculous Super Rugby standings, the 3-0 Crusaders trail the 1-2 Brumbies overall. Makes sense.
And then there were three. The Stormers complete the unbeaten trio after three rounds, establishing themselves as the second-highest scoring team in the competition and sitting tied forthe second-best defence. But, with that said, those stats have come from clashes against the Bulls, Jaguares and Kings - teams with a combined 3-5 record - and they've yet to leave South Africa. That'll change next week, though, with a visit to the ... Sunwolves.
Was this the best victory in Jaguares history? Well,there's not exactly a wealth of candidates. In their inaugural campaign, the Lions won four games, all against South African sides. And they beat only one team who made theplayoffs - funnily enough, a severely-weakened Lions outfit inthe final week ofthe season. So while the Lions were again missing four key Springboks, Sunday morning's triumph currently takes the No 1 spot for the Argentinians.
Crusaders v Blues, Christchurch, 7.35pm
Rebels v Chiefs, Melbourne,9.45pm
Bulls v Sunwolves, Pretoria,6.00am
Hurricanes v Highlanders, Wellington, 7.35pm
Waratahs v Brumbies, Sydney, 9.45pm
Lions v Reds, Johannesburg, 4.15am
Sharks v Kings Durban,6.30am
Jaguares v Cheetahs, Buenos Aires, 8.40am