Super Rugby
Chiefs confirm title intentions, Canes look real deal
Sam Bruce and Brittney Mitchell
March 2, 2015
The Chiefs recorded an impressive 40-16 win over the Crusaders (Australia only)

There are four unbeaten sides after the opening three rounds of Super Rugby, but there can be little doubt as to which of those teams deserve to be competition favourites. That honour, of course, belongs to the Chiefs after the two-time champions dismantled the Crusaders in a 24-point thrashing at Waikato Stadium. The Hurricanes, Stormers and Cheetahs should also be ecstatic with their respective early-season form, but, for now, they remain some way off Dave Rennie's side. Read on as we review every match of round three and watch video of each game on the right-hand side of this page.

Highlanders 20-13 Reds (Australia only)
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Highlanders 20-13 Reds

While James O'Connor's much anticipated return will be celebrated, with his cutting runs and accurate passes, the Highlanders' Marty Banks stole the honours in the battle of the fly-halves in Dunedin. The Reds appeared to have turned things around after their opening round humiliation with a strong win over Western Force in round two, but the Reds fell back to their old ways, with poor discipline - they conceded 11 penalties - costing them over the ditch. O'Connor and Will Genia fought to lift the side, but the Reds' inability to hold the ball or remain on side proved the difference.

Force 13-42 Hurricanes (Australia only)
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Force 13-42 Hurricanes

Do Hurricanes fans dare to dream? A third straight win on the road must surely have them thinking about finals footy at the very least. After two bruising encounters in the Republic, the perennial under-achievers delivered a sparkling attacking performance in a 42-13 hammering of the Force. It was the kind of performance the Wellington side have made a habit of in recent seasons; only this time it came at the end of brutal tour not after an embarrassing home defeat that frustrated their loyal fans. Force coach Michael Foley, meanwhile, suggested his side may have over-celebrated their opening win over the Waratahs; Ben McCalman has fought a one-man battle since.

Cheetahs 25-24 Blues (Australia only)
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Cheetahs 25-24 Blues

All Blacks great Sir John Kirwan is sure to face questions around his immediate future as Blues coach after the Auckland-based side slumped to their third straight defeat - their worst start in the history of Super Rugby. Kirwan did have cause to feel a little aggrieved following this last-gasp loss with referee Rohan Hoffman awarding a controversial penalty to the hosts for "disengaging" at the lineout. It's a decision that will surely have the lawmakers reviewing their work, and one ESPN put to SANZAR Game Manager Lyndon Bray ahead of the season. The preceding 77 minutes had produced a see-sawing affair in which the lead changed nine times, the Cheetahs off-the-cuff attacking style against the Blues robust forward play. Springboks flyer Cornal Hendricks made a fine return, the winger scoring a double with a couple of wonderful finishes.

Chiefs 40-16 Crusaders

If you hadn't quite noticed the Chiefs in the opening two rounds then their latest outing has surely grabbed some attention. In a cracking match against the Crusaders, the Chiefs punished the 2014 finalists at every opportunity and scored five tries to run out emphatic 24-point winners. Code-hopper Sonny Bill Williams was in the thick of the action throughout, scoring one try and playing a part in two others in another commanding performance. While the Chiefs went up another level, the Crusaders in no way resembled their champion selves as they fumbled and bumbled through 80 minutes of hammering rugby and came away with just one try. With little to be happy about, the Crusaders have plenty to work on in the bye week.

Melbourne Rebels 15-20 Brumbies (Australia only)
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Rebels 15-20 Brumbies

If the Chiefs are the team to beat in New Zealand then the Brumbies deserve the same billing in Australia following a tough four-point win over the Rebels in Melbourne. The home side dominated possession and territory but could find no way through the Brumbies' defence in another mark for defensive coach Peter Ryan. The former Brumbies back-rower and Brisbane Broncos forward has made a massive impact in Canberra, with the side giving up just one try in three matches so far. Tries to Tevita Kuridrani and Jarrad Butler proved the difference although the back-rower will be slightly dirty on himself for knocking on just short of the line when a second rolling-maul five-pointer beckoned. In an interesting piece of refereeing, Steve Walsh first awarded the try only to call for the TMO once he'd watched the replay on the AAMI Park big screen.

Bulls 43-35 Sharks (Australia only)
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Bulls 43-35 Sharks

It may have taken three weeks but the real Bulls finally stepped into the ring and produced the kind of rugby synonymous with the Pretoria-based franchise. The powerful Pierre Spies was back to his best while winger Francois Hougaard was finally given the space to use his fancy feet in the four-try bonus-point win. After back-to-back defeats at home, another loss at Loftus would have had the Bulls' season on life support but they now have a platform to build on, particularly with fly-half Handre Pollard in excellent early form. The Sharks, meanwhile, were perhaps a little too reliant on the boot of Patrick Lambie and may need to add some attacking nous behind what is a Test-quality pack.

Lions 19-22 Stormers (Australia only)
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Lions 19-22 Stormers

Lions centre Howard Mnisi may find himself out of the match-day 23 next week after blowing what would have been a match-winning try against the Stormers in Johannesburg. The home side had spurned two kickable penalties - which would have secured a draw - with skipper Warren Whiteley searching for a first win of 2015. It wasn't to be, however, as Mnisi knocked on after 34 phases, the centre coughing up possession in a tackle over the line long after the siren had sounded. The Stormers had taken the lead only a few minutes from time via a rolling maul try to Siya Kolisi; the Cape Town side very much the season's surprise-packets after a third win in succession.

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