THE surging Waratahs have all but wiped out the previously imposing early season lead of the Rebels as the battle for supremacy in Australia’s Super Rugby conference tightens up.
Only seven points separate the four local sides, with each having played six games.
With the Rebels (20 points), having a bye, NSW (19) moved to within striking distance of the Victorian franchise with a seven try, 50-29 bonus point win over the Sunwolves in Tokyo.
The Brumbies (14) overturned a 15-0 deficit and piled on 38 straight points in a 45-21 win over the Reds (13) in Canberra.
It meant successive losses either side of a bye for Queensland, who had captain Scott Higginbotham go down with a calf injury on his return to the starting XV.
In a further blow, halfback Ben Lucas was knocked out and will go through concussion protocols this week as he races the clock to be fit for another key derby with the Waratahs in Sydney.
All the Australian sides will be back in action on Saturday.
The Rebels host the Jaguares in an afternoon game, the Brumbies face the Highlanders in Dunedin and the nation’s oldest rugby rivalry continues with the Tahs facing the Reds at the SCG.
NSW are the side with the most momentum, coming off three straight wins, scoring 50 or more in two of those victories.
Halfback Jake Gordon bagged a tryscoring double and winger Taqele Naiyaravoro crossed for the fifth time in their past three games.
The giant shadow of the Kiwi teams loom large over the Australian rivals, with at least one trans-Tasman clash scheduled for every remaining week before the playoffs.
The Crusaders remain atop the New Zealand conference following a six try 40-14 defeat of the Jaguares in Buenos Aires.
Only three points separate the top three Kiwi teams, following close finishes in both of the games in New Zealand.
The Hurricanes shaded the Sharks 38-37 in Napier, with inside centre Ngani Laumape crossing five minutes after the fulltime siren.
The Chiefs stretched their unbeaten run over the Blues to 14 games, with a late penalty try earning the hosts a 21-19 victory in Hamilton and a fifth win on the spin.
The Lions are a whopping 11 points clear in the South African conference after winger Madosh Tambwe scored four tries in their 52-31 home win over the Stormers in Johannesburg.