FNB UP-Tuks and FNB NWU-Pukke put some daylight between themselves and the chasing pack with good away wins in Round Four of the 2014 Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International.
Defending champions UP-Tuks continued their unbeaten run this season with a tough 26-16 victory over UCT in extremely windy conditions on the Green Mile in Cape Town, while NWU-Pukke were too strong for the NMMU Madibaz who went down 52-16 in Port Elizabeth.
The other two teams to notch wins on Monday night – UFS-Shimlas and Maties – round off the top four thanks to home wins over UJ and Wits, respectively.
UP-Tuks secured what could prove to be a crucial bonus point in the final stages of their win in Cape Town to hold a one-point lead on the standings over NWU-Pukke who scored seven tries in their demolition of the Madibaz.
It was the Ikeys' second defeat at home this season, to go with away wins against Maties and the Madibaz in the last two weeks, and leaves them in fifth spot on the standings, just ahead of NMMU on points difference.
The heavy defeat to NWU-Pukke was NMMU's second consecutive defeat at home, where they had not previously lost since 2012, and leaves them with plenty of work to do with three away games to play before the semifinals.
In Bloemfontein, the UFS-Shimlas scored five tries in the first half to take the game away from UJ before cruising to a comfortable 52-16 victory which saw them leap up to third place on the log, four points behind NWU-Pukke.
UJ simply had no response for the fluid Free State side, and find themselves down in seventh position with just one win from their four matches this season.
Maties were forced to come from behind to earn a hard-fought 18-15 win against Wits who earned their first log points of the season despite narrowly missing out on their first-ever Varsity Cup win.
Wits were leading heading into the final half-hour, but conceded two tries when down to 14 men as Maties snuck home to move up to fourth place on the standings - Wits nearly stealing a dramatic draw through an unconverted try on fulltime.
In the Varsity Shield, meanwhile, Fort Hare flyhalf Oliver Zono scored minutes from time to clinch a dramatic 31-29 victory over defending champions CUT in Bloemfontein.
It was the Ixias' first defeat in the competition since 2012 and sees Fort Hare go from last place up to third position, four points adrift of the UKZN Impi who beat the TUT Vikings 32-8 in Pietermaritzburg.
In the FNB Varsity Young Guns competition, UFS got their campaign up and running with a resounding 122-0 victory over Wits in Bloemfontein, while UJ made it two wins from two games with a 40-29 win against Ikeys in Cape Town.
In Steinhoff Koshuisrugby Championship action, Steinhoff Oppidani from NMMU went down 31-0 at home to a well-drilled Steinhoff Patria outfit from NWU-Pukke and Steinhoff Heimat from UFS got their campaign off to a convincing start with a 55-16 victory over Steinhoff Humanities from Wits in Bloemfontein.