Chiefs crush Cheetahs 45-3
The Chiefs scored six tries to crush the Central Cheetahs 45-3 in Hamilton to lead the New Zealand conference from the re-energised Auckland Blues on points difference, with both sides having played two matches.
The Blues maintained their early season momentum under new coach John Kirwan, demolishing arch-rivals and seven-time champions Canterbury Crusaders 34-15 at home on Friday to show they will be a force to be feared this year.
Australia's two-time champions Brumbies lead the overall points standings after a bye this weekend, with rivals Queensland Reds and NSW Waratahs keeping in touch with home wins in the third round of matches.
The Reds scrambled to an 18-12 victory over the Wellington Hurricanes, while the Waratahs stormed home from 10 points down at half-time to beat the Melbourne Rebels 31-26.
The Northern Bulls lead the South Africa conference after a late surge to down Australia's Western Force 36-26 in Pretoria.
In second place are last season's finalists the Coastal Sharks, who ground out a 12-6 victory over Western Stormers in a fiery, forward-dominated contest in Durban.
In Hamilton, the Cheetahs had the Chiefs on the back foot in the first half before the home side regrouped, scoring four tries in the closing quarter.
'Good telling off'
"Nothing like a good telling off at half-time," captain Liam Messam said of the second-half domination. "We didn't turn up in the first half and they were beating us at our own game at the breakdowns.
"So we just went back to basics, good clean ball for our backs and we scored at the end of the game."
Late tries earned the Bulls a flattering bonus-point win over the Force, which led with nine minutes left.
The Bulls got the five points they would have targeted against one of the traditionally weaker teams.
In Auckland, the Blues ran in five tries to nil for a bonus-point win against the seven-time champions, with all the Crusaders' points coming from Dan Carter with five penalties.
Blues skipper Ali Williams said the performance, which builds on an upset win over the Hurricanes last week, was all about regaining respect after a dismal 2012 season when the Auckland outfit finished 12th.
Patrick Lambie won the goalkicking battle against Joe Pietersen to give the Sharks a tight win over the Stormers in the clash of South African titans.
Springbok fly-half Lambie succeeded with four of five penalty attempts as the Sharks continued a good start to the Southern Hemisphere championship after a seven-point victory over the Cheetahs last weekend.
Queensland Reds had a close shave against the Hurricanes after leading 18-9 early in the second half. Wellington dominated possession and territory to put the home side under pressure in the final stages.
Queensland held on for a two tries-to-nil victory for their second win this season after losing to the Brumbies in the opening round.
In the remaining game, the Waratahs swept to victory over the Rebels with 25 points in the second half, with tries for fly-half Bernard Foley, openside flanker Michael Hooper and prop Paddy Ryan.
Scrumhalf Brendan McKibbin kicked four penalties and two conversions to seal the Waratahs' win after their opening 25-17 loss to the Reds last week. - AFP