Round 7 of Super Rugby AU saw wins for the Waratahs and Reds, meaning there is now just four points separating first from fourth on the competition ladder.
Read on as we review the weekend's action
AUSSIE DERBY ENTERTAINMENT HAS SELDOM BEEN HIGHER
Whether it's the new laws, the fact they were forced to sit idle for months or even the presence of a new Wallabies coach, it's clear there is something different about the Australian derbies being played in Super Rugby AU.
So often dour affairs, dogged by stoppages and mistakes, in the various iterations of Super Rugby over the past decade, the fledgling Australian competition is providing quality entertainment that now gets clean trans-Tasman air following the conclusion of Super Rugby Aotearoa.
They may have taken some time to find their feet, but the five Australian sides are now producing quality entertainment week after week and Round 7 was no different.
The Waratahs at last registered back-to-back victories and again showed their attack has finally found its rhythm in a 28-8 victory over the Force. The hosts scored first at Cbus Super Stadium, before the Waratahs ran in three straight tries and rode the near-flawless kicking of Will Harrison to a comfortable 20-point victory.
But it is not just the 21-year-old's left boot, which he is using to control matches and to split the uprights at a success rate north of 90 percent, that is proving so vital to the Waratahs' resurgence but also his ability to set his improving backline on the front foot from a position of depth.
Harrison may need to flatten up a touch for this weekend's trip to Canberra, the Brumbies surely seeing opportunities with a rush-defence, but he is improving week to week as he learns more about what it takes to be successful at senior level. And he must also be mounting a decent case to wear the Wallabies No. 10 jersey alongside veterans Matt To'omua and James O'Connor.
While the Waratahs dazzled in attack, it was the Reds' defence which earned widespread praise following an incredible second-half effort when they barely touched the ball.
Just a week after they conceded five tries in a half, the Reds conceded only a penalty goal in their 19-3 victory over the Rebels as they repelled wave after wave of Melbourne attacks throughout the second 40.
It was not as though the Rebels kept coming with the same plays either, the visitors mixed up their attack nicely only to see the Reds scramble on their line on countless occasions.
By the time the final siren had sounded, the Reds had made 161 more tackles than the Rebels but had still done so at an impressive 89 percent success rate to more than make up for their embarrassing performance in Sydney seven days earlier.
All in all, it was a gripping second-half at Suncorp Stadium, Hamish Stewart's try ensuring the small contingent of Reds fans went home happy when he cut through the line on a 45-metre run following a deft short pass from James O'Connor.
What the past few weeks and most certainly the last fortnight has shown is that each of the Waratahs, Rebels and Reds are capable of winning this competition, and that the Brumbies are in no way the competition shoe-ins many thought they would be earlier in the tournament.
And it has also shown why Rugby Australia has acted so staunchly in its refusal to even entertain supplying as few as two sides to a Super Rugby Aotearoa competition next year; also that, as the COVID-19 situation continues on both sides of the Tasman, Super Rugby AU can stand on its own two feet should it again be necessary in 2021.
There will be issues to confront, including a reduction in salary-cap spending as flagged by Waratahs chairman Roger Davis over the weekend, but Rugby Australia can at least take confidence from the fact the rugby being played in its derbies is providing genuine entertainment when, for many years previous, it had often been the perfect prescription for insomnia.
REBELS STARS PROVE EVERYONE IS HUMAN
There have been no more consistent performers for the Rebels in recent years than Isi Naisarani and Marika Koroibete, the Fijian duo responsible for so much of their team's go-forward and finishing close to the line.
But in showing that even experienced players can slip up under pressure, Koroibete and Naisarani both blew golden try-scoring opportunities on Saturday night in Brisbane.
With an unmarked man outside him, Koroibete backed himself to run over the top of Reds scrum-half Tate McDermott only for the diminutive No. 9 to stand his ground and force the Wallabies winger into a mistake when he then tried to pass.
Shortly after, Naisarani appeared certain to score as he received a pass from scrum-half Frank Lomani and charged towards the line. But in reaching out to ground the ball, Naisarani placed it on a loose Reds leg and saw it dribble free of his grasp.
It was a touch unlucky and probably reflected the fact that it wasn't going to be the Rebels' night.
Dave Wessels' side have the bye this week, before closing Super Rugby AU's regular season with games against the Force and Waratahs, the latter of which could determine whether or not they figure in the finals.
JUST LIKE AOTEAROA, SUPER RUGBY AU IS TAKING ITS TOLL
It may not have quite the same level of physicality as Super Rugby Aotearoa, but Super Rugby AU is experiencing similar injury issues to the New Zealand competition and even the NRL.
In Brisbane alone, each of Hunter Paisami, Matt To'omua and Jordan Petaia were forced off early with injury while the competition has already had Noah Lolesio, Rob Simmons, Ian Prior and Dane Zander all spending time on the sidelines or had their seasons ended altogether.
It follows similar situations in both the New Zealand competition and the NRL, where the introduction of the Six Again rule has been blamed for its spate of injuries.
Two big bodies that were handling the heavy contact well on the weekend were Taniela Tupou and Pone Fa'amausili, the front-row duo thundering into each other on one occasion like a pair of young bulls who had designs on the same prized young heifer.
The Brisbane crowd later got a good laugh when replacement prop Cabous Eloff had his shorts completely ripped to pieces and he was left standing in just his bright pink Budgy Smugglers.
The replacement shorts he was handed shortly after were then about five sizes to small, leaving little to the imagination and the small Suncorp Stadium crowd in stitches.