Super Rugby round 7 review: Chiefs roll on, whilst Savea back with a hat-trick

The 7th week of the Super Rugby season saw the Reds register their first win of the campaign, at home to 2015 champions, the Highlanders

Super Rugby round 7 review: Chiefs roll on, whilst Savea back with a hat-trick
Shaun Stevenson crosses for the Chiefs (image via: stuff.co.nz)

As the Super Rugby season edges towards the third month, it is starting to become clear which sides will be battling it out for a playoff spot. 

The weaker sides are struggling to contend and are being put to the sword, whilst the strong teams are generally finding a way to win.

The New Zealand conference would have as many as four of the eight playoff teams if the season finished right now, and they remain the cream of the crop.

Chiefs continue winning, whilst Crusaders edge past Force

The top side in the competition right now are the Chiefs from Waikato. Dave Rennie's men top the overall standings after registering their sixth win of the season, a 29-23 triumph over the Blues

After dismantling the Brumbies in Canberra last weekend, all eyes were on the Chiefs, and although they struggled to put away Tana Umaga's Blues, they still picked up the bonus point after scoring five tries through Mitchell Graham, Shaun Stevenson, Aaron Cruden, Seta Tamanivalu and Brodie Retallick

The Blues were written off before the game, yet managed to forge a 20-10 lead just after the break thanks to tries from Melani Nanai and Rieko Ioane, before they were taken apart over the last half hour. 

Also on Friday, the Crusaders left it late before beating the Force 20-19 in Perth. On the back of a two-game winning streak in South Africa, the Crusaders kept their away run going thanks to Jordan Taufua's try in the final minute. 

Having built a 13-6 half-time lead through tries from Jonny McNicholl and Mitchell Drummond, the Crusaders then found themselves behind after the Force hit-back through the boot of Peter Grant and a try from Ryan Louwrens

Crusaders match-winner Jordan Taufua in action against the Force (image via: zimbio)

Just as it looked like the Force would secure their first home win of the season, Taufua forced his way over from close range, followed by a clutch conversion from Richie Mo'unga to help the 'Saders to a fifth win from six. 

Lions win away at Sharks as South African conference takes shape

For the Lions to become a true force in Super Rugby, winning away matches against fellow South African sides is a must. On Saturday, they did just that, beating the Sharks 24-9 in Durban

Johan Ackerman's side were dominant before the break, and took control of the match through tries from Andries Ferreira and Lionel Mapoe, building a 18-6 half-time lead. Nine points from the boot of Joe Pietersen were all the Sharks could manage on a disappointing afternoon for Gary Gold's men. 

On Friday evening in Newlands, the Stormers eased to a bonus-point 46-19 win over the Sunwolves. Sikhumbuzo Notshe really stood out with a brace of tries, whilst young fly-half Jean-Luc du Plessis put in a strong performance which should bode well for the remainder of the campaign. 

In another one-sided affair, the Bulls scored six-tries in their 38-6 win at the Kings. Jamba Ullengo and SP Marais each scored two tries for the Bulls who moved up to third in the South African conference standings. 

Jamba Ullengo scored twice in the Bulls win over the Kings (image via: skysports)

Reds edge past Highlanders, while Savea hat-trick helps Hurricanes see off Jaguares

In the game of the weekend, 2015 champions, the Highlanders, left their fightback too late, falling to a 28-27 defeat in Queensland against the Reds

The Reds built a resounding 28-6 lead 50 minutes in thanks to tries from Jake McIntyre, Nick Frisby, Liam Gill and Samu Kerevi, who was unstoppable during the first half, breaking on numerous occassions. 

The big players then began to stand up for the 'Landers, and they found themselves within a point of their hosts late on after tries from Aaron Smith, Lima Sopoaga and Malakai Fekitoa. That was as close as they got though, and the Reds held on for a much deserved victory which should kick-start their season.

The Hurricanes put in another below-par performance, yet came away with the bonus-point victory, over beating an understrengthed Jaguares side 40-22 at the Cake Tin

Smiles back on the face of Julian Savea, who scored a hat-trick against the Jaguares (image via: scoopnest.com)

The returning Juilan Savea looked somewhere back to his best, grabbing a hat-trick of tries, adding to five-pointers from Beauden Barrett, Dane Coles and Ben May, whose try after the clock had ticked past 80' secured the all-important bonus point.