The Brumbies suffered their first loss when beaten 17-35 by the Crusaders in Christchurch, while towards the lower end of the table, some massive scores have left teams facing quick improvement if they are to be playoff contenders.
The Highlanders inflicted a 57-24 loss on the Fijian Drua to move into the top eight, while Moana Pasifika was scoreless when going down 0-59 to the Hurricanes.
The Chiefs sit on top with 23 points, the Hurricanes are four back in second place, with the Brumbies in third on 17 and the Blues and Crusaders sharing 15 points.
Crusaders 35 Brumbies 17
It's an oldie but a goody, and the Crusaders put it to perfect use again, with hooker Codie Taylor throwing the ball to a lineout, racing into the halfback position to run wide and link with blindside wing Leicester Fainga'anuku cutting back, beating three defenders to score to wipe out the early lead the visitors secured from a Ryan Lonergan penalty goal. They needed to, as poor handling had minimized their early opportunities. Lock Zach Gallagher showed his midfield back capabilities when picking up the ball from the base of a ruck, running into a gap to feed fullback Fergus Burke who moved it on to wing Pepesano Patafilo. He kicked ahead, and centre Braydon Ennor raced through to secure the bounce to roll over the line in the tackle to score. The home team punished the visitors for failing to take their chance just before halftime by scoring at the other end through hooker Codie Taylor at a 42nd-minute lineout maul.
Halfback Lonergan scored at the start of the second half when wing Corey Toole showed impressive speed to score. However, the Brumbies had left their run too late as Burke hit the blindside hard and while grounded replacement loose forward Christian Lio-Willie was on hand to power over to complete the win.
Crusaders 35 (Leicester Fainga'anuku 2, Braydon Ennor, Codie Taylor, Christian Lio-Willie tries; Richie Mo'unga 5 con) Brumbies 17 (Ryan Lonergan, Corey Toole tries; Lonergan 2 con, pen). HT: 21-3
Waratahs 14 Chiefs 24
A try apiece in the first half, the opener for Chiefs' first five-eighths Bryn Gatland when selling a dummy to open the line and the next, an intercept to halfback Jake Gordon off a Gatland pass saw the scores at 7-7 at halftime. Fullback Damian McKenzie landed a 45m penalty goal to resume the second half. The lead was extended when centre Alex Nankivell probed before slipping the ball back inside for wing Emoni Narawa to take the ball and score.
At the three-quarter mark, the home team went to their lineout maul and scored through flanker Michael Hooper to pull within three of the Chiefs. It took another 15 minutes before the decider came, but given the game situation, it came with ridiculous ease. Replacement Shaun Stevenson slipped a grubber kick through, and a Waratahs' deflection made it easier for Narawa to pick up his second try with no home defenders in sight.
Waratahs 14 (Jake Gordon, Michael Hooper tries; Ben Donaldson 2 con) Chiefs 24 (Bryn Gatland , Emoni Narawa 2 tries; Damian McKenzie 3 con, pen). HT: 7-7
Highlanders 57 Fijian Drua 24
Strong-running centre Apisalome Vota provided the impetus for the Drua's first try, scored by supporting halfback Frank Lomani. The Highlanders' response was immediate off a mid-field break by No8 Nikora Broughton, which opened room on the left for prop Jermaine Ainsley, both players receiving long passes from first five-eighths Mitch Hunt, to score. Loosehead prop Ethan de Groot backed his front-row mate by also scoring. Wing Martin Bogato was on the receiving end of an in-pass from halfback Aaron Smith to add to the tally, while fullback Sam Gilbert pulled off a charge down, a recovery of the ball, and an ankle tap to get up and still had enough time to score. Drua wing Taniela Rakuro had time to show his elusiveness by scoring in the corner before a long pass from Smith put Hunt through for a try and a 33-12 lead at the break.
Smith kept the momentum going at the start of the second half with a trademark snipe around a goal-line ruck before supporting his pass. He snapped up a rebound to fire a long pass to left-wing Jonah Lowe for another try. Bogado scored a second try, even if limping over the line. Drua hooker Tevita Ikanivere and Lomani scored, but it was academic as replacement back Cameron Millar rounded out a rousing home team win with the last of their nine tries.
Highlanders 57 (Jermaine Ainsley, Ethan de Groot, Martin Bogado 2, Sam Gilbert, Mitchell Hunt, Aaron Smith, Jonah Lowe, Cameron Millar tries; Gilbert 5 con; Millar con) Fijian Drua 24 (Frank Lomani 2, Taniela Rakuro, Tevita Ikanivere tries; Kemu Valetini con; Lomani con). HT: 33-12
Moana Pasifika 0 Hurricanes 59
Hopes of a repeat of their maiden Super Rugby victory were dashed for Moana Pasifika in a thrashing at Mt Smart Stadium. Hurricanes first five-eighths Brett Cameron showed how comfortable he has become in the side by lobbing a kick to the corner for wing Kini Naholo to knock the ball down to fullback Josh Moorby to score, then ran in a nice blindside try of his own. Poor defence on lock Dominic Bird allowed him to slip a ball away to halfback Cameron Roigard to score off more poor defence.
More blindside running saw Cameron and Naholo combine, with Naholo's power carrying him through two tackles to score. Wing Salesi Rayasi scored a double, the first from a short inside pass by halfback Jamie Booth and the second from an effective reverse pass by Moorby. A one-two between wing Julian Savea and No8 and brother Ardie saw the skipper cross ahead of debut replacement hooker Hame Faiva for another try. The coup de grâce was scored by outstanding flanker Peter Lakai who raced down the sideline to complete a redemptory win for the Hurricanes.
Moana Pasifika 0 Hurricanes 59 (Josh Moorby, Brett Cameron, Cameron Roigard, Kini Naholo, Salesi Rayasi 2, Ardie Savea, Hame Faiva, Peter Lakai tries; Cameron 7 con). HT: 0-19
Rebels 40 Reds 34
Setting the early pace, the Reds scored first off the back of an in-pass off a scrum from first five-eighths James O'Connor to centre Josh Flook, running from the blind, who had acres of space to run in a try. Then, quick breakdown work and support from No8 Harry Wilson and flanker Liam Wright allowed wing Jordan Petaia to cross on the blindside to extend the lead. But in the Reds' 22m area, a clever grubber kick from centre Stacey Ili was picked up by wing Monty Ioane who fed inside to halfback Ryan Louwrens to begin the home team's response. That was followed in quick sequence by flanker Josh Kemeny crossing from a tap penalty out from the line and then prop Matt Gibbon scoring before an impressive run by No8 Vaiolini Ekuasi to give the Rebels a 26-14 lead at the turn.
Twin chip kicks, the first by O'Connor, which he recovered, and the second by halfback Kalani Thomas saw Petaia gather the bouncing ball and beat the defence to score. Lock Ryan Smith then levelled the scores when bursting from the middle of a lineout maul to score. O'Connor created a goal-line ruck which saw the ball flicked to Flook on the short side to extend the lead to 31-26. However, the Rebels recovered, and Ioane chose a miss-out lob from the sideline to unmarked fullback Joe Pincus who scored. Carter Gordon's conversion regained the lead for the home team. An O'Connor penalty goal saw the Reds edge to a 34-33 lead before replacement lock Angelo Smith had the final say when charging across from a ruck.
Rebels 40 (Ryan Louwrens, Josh Kemeny, Matt Gibbon, Vaiolini Ekuasi, Joe Pincus, Angelo Smith tries; Carter Gordon 5 con) Reds 34 (Josh Flook 2, Jordan Petaia 2, Ryan Smith tries; James O'Connor 3 con, pen). HT: 26-14
Blues 30 Force 17
A messy first half, mainly due to the untried combination the Blues fielded, wasn't enough to provide the Force with needed opportunities. Misses at lineouts, lack of execution at breakdowns and a muddled response to a restart were all negatives to the Blues' performance. The restart error gave the Force a lineout opportunity which they used to score their only try of the half after fullback Chase Tiatia slipped a grubber kick to the in-goal, where flanker Michael Wells scored. However, the Blues managed to take two opportunities at least. The first was when wing Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens rose superbly to claim a cross-kick from first five-eighths Stephen Perofeta, somehow managing to ground the ball. Two minutes later, after 31 minutes, Perofeta broke and linked with flanker Anton Segner. From the ruck, flanker Adrian Choat and lock Cameron Suafoa handled before prop Ofa Tu'ungafasi drove through to score.
Perofeta kept the pressure on in the second half, as the Blues dominated all avenues of possession, and his break created a chance for wing Mark Telea to score and while Tony Pulu got one back after Perofeta was caught with the ball in-goal, replacement hooker Ricky Riccitelli crossed with an assist from replacement lock Sam Darry to extend the lead. Pulu's second try denied the Blues the chance for a bonus point.
Blues 30 (Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Mark Telea, Ricky Riccitelli tries; Stephen Perofeta 2 con, 2 pen) Force 17 (Michael Wells, Toni Pulu, Zach Kirbirgie tries; Hamish Stuart con). HT: 18-5