Ollie Ritchie: Super Rugby Pacific delivers ideal opening weekend of thrills, intrigue (and Crusaders loss)

OPINION: Super Rugby Pacific bosses will love what just transpired over the opening weekend of competition.

And they should. Round one had it all. 

For everyone not living in Canterbury, it could've ended after the opening game and they'd be more than happy. 

The Chiefs didn't just beat the defending champions at home - Clayton McMillan's side delivered a one-sided pasting. 

They kept the Crusaders scoreless for 60 minutes... in Christchurch. 

They ran in 31 unanswered points... in Christchurch. 

And they showed they are a team who will very much be in contention for the title in June.

Titles aren't won in February and it’s only one loss for Scott Robertson's side, but they should be majorly concerned at the way they were shut out of that game, unable to fight their way back into the contest at all, as the Chiefs played all the rugby and looked in total control. 

The Crusaders had no answers, which isn't something you associate with a team that’s won the last six titles.

In a year when Robertson hopes to secure the biggest job of them all, that's hardly the way to show the NZ Rugby board they should put a contract with 'All Blacks Head Coach' in front of him.

Aain, it's only one loss and, of course, it’s not even close to being a blemish on Robertson's outstanding record, which should still make him very much be the frontrunner for that job. 

Cortez Ratima scores a try for the Chiefs
Cortez Ratima scores a try for the Chiefs. Photo credit: Getty Images

You can bet the Crusaders will be better, no doubt about it, but you can also bet they’ll be in for a week of serious work at Rugby Park. 

If the Chiefs were great, the Blues were down right destructive. 

They humiliated the Highlanders, played rugby from all parts of the ground and unleashing an All Blacks-laden backline that showed absolutely no mercy, as they ruthlessly picked apart the southerners like they were no more than a second grade club side. 

Beauden Barrett showed exactly why NZR want to keep him around, with a near flawless display, while Mark Telea took a giant leap toward booking a ticket to the World Cup, Patrick Tuipulotu the same. 

The Highlanders' lack of depth was brutally exposed, as the Blues flexed their title muscles. 

This is a team who are clearly more than ready to make amends for last year’s final defeat. 

If the Blues keep playing like that, you can start engraving their name onto the trophy now.

Round one had it all. The Hurricanes turned a slow first half into a dominant second, also running in 31 unanswered points against the Reds to show they'll be right there this year.

Asafo Aumua's impact was crucial, Billy Proctor showed he and Jordie Barrett will be quite the handful in the midfield, and Ardie Savea was, well, Ardie Savea.

Mark Telea scores a try against the Highlanders
Mark Telea scores a try against the Highlanders. Photo credit: Photosport

Moana Pasifika and Fijian Drua played out a thriller at Mt Smart Stadium, with a last gasp try winning it for the Drua.

The Brumbies-Waratahs clash was a high-pace, high-intensity thriller that had the 'Tahs in the fight for the whole 80 minutes. Even the Force and Rebels contest was enough to keep the eyelids open in the early hours of Sunday morning. 

These games had what Super Rugby badly needed to get the second season of its latest installment off on the right foot. 

The new law variations appear to be working wonders, with ball-in-play time higher, the TMO isn’t interfering just to check whether the referee needs another bottle of water or his socks pulled up, and importantly, the rugby has been high quality.

If Super Rugby Pacific continues to deliver at this level, it may have just found its resurgence.

Ollie Ritchie is Newshub rugby reporter. Join Newshub for live updates of the Super Rugby Pacific season