Western Force have suffered their first loss of the NRC season, while Melbourne have notched a second win in succession to throw the NRC final four open with two rounds of fixtures remaining.
The Force headed to Port Macquarie to take on the NSW Country Eagles overwhelming favourites having been unbeaten through the first four rounds.
But after a lacklustre showing against Brisbane the week before, the Eagles were on song, sprinting to a 14-0 lead and keeping control of the game throughout to push back into second spot on the competition ladder.
Melbourne needed to win their last four matches to have any hope of making the finals and they kept their hopes alive with a second successive victory, this time against Sydney, ending their rival's post-season hopes in the process.
Yesterday, Canberra cemented a spot in the top four, while Country won the Queensland derby in a competition-shaping day of NRC round five fixtures.
The Vikings beat the Drua 41-28 to break their deadlock on the competition ladder and cement a spot in the four, with Wallabies squad members Tom Banks and Joe Powell managing the game in the second half to guide them home.
With just a win and two draws so far, the Drua could struggle to make the semis and defend their NRC title.
Meanwhile, Queensland Country beat Brisbane City in the intrastate derby in Gladstone to keep their slim finals hopes alive.
In one of their most consistent performances of the season, the Reds-heavy Country pack dominated the first half, opening a 28-0 lead to set up their eventual 42-26 win.
Canberra has now leapfrogged Brisbane into third place, while Queensland Country have moved to level with fourth-placed NSW Country on competition points, although the Eagles have a game in hand.
Watch match highlights and full replays of all games in the round below.
SYDNEY VS MELBOURNE RISING
Melbourne have maintained their push for an NRC finals place with a 40-26 win over Sydney in a second consecutive dominant display.
The Rising did not win a game or even notch a bonus point in the first three rounds but are charging home and remain a finals chance after their second maximum-points effort in succession.
With a pack containing several Melbourne Rebels Super Rugby players, the Rising have been playing to their strengths at the set piece, but showed they also have flair out wide if given the space.
Sydney, meanwhile, are out of finals contention with just one win from five rounds in a disappointing campaign.
Melbourne Rising 40
Tries: Rangi 2, Marsters 2, Acheson, Tuimalealiifano
Cons: Sooialo 5
Yellow card: Justin Marsters 69'
Tries: Vui, Short, Abel, Marr
Cons: Harrison 3
NSW COUNTRY EAGLES VS WESTERN FORCE
NSW Country have ended the Western Force’s unbeaten run and stamped their own NRC credentials leading from start to finish in an impressive 38-24 victory at Port Macquarie.
All the talk before the match centred on whether the Force could extend their winning streak to five and finish the season without a loss.
Despite suffering their first loss of the season to Brisbane last week, the Eagles entered the clash somewhat under the radar in fourth place but today’s table topping scalp has seen them fly into second spot with thoughts of a home semi-final.
NSW Country 38
Tries: Nawaqanitawase, Gordon, Penalty-try, Ah Wong, Woollett
Cons: Mason, O’Shea 3
Yellow card: Champion de Crespigny 17’
Western Force 24
Tries: Tessmann, Feke, Kaitu'u, Placid
Cons: Prior, Deegan
Yellow card: Tessmann 23’
CANBERRA VIKINGS VS FIJIAN DRUA
The Canberra Vikings have bounced back from their loss to the NRC leaders with a 41-28 win over the Fijian Drua to show they remain a force in the competition.
The Vikings and Drua were locked on nine competition points heading into round five, sharing fourth spot on the ladder, and the job of making the semi-finals was going to be difficult for the loser with two rounds remaining.
Beaten 45-28 by the undefeated Western Force in Perth last week, the Vikings were determined to make up for their insipid performance and controlled the match from the outset, although
But they showed they also have the patience and forward strength to match their unstructured play, scoring three of their four tries from pick and drive moves after several phases of play.
While Canberra pushed out to an early lead, the Drua clawed to within a point early in the second half but turnovers and cost them dearly, while the game management of Wallabies squad members Tom Banks and Joe Powell steered the Vikings home.
Canberra Vikings 41
Tries: Wright, Pulu 2, Banks 2, Lonergan, Hansen
Cons: Lonergan 2, Kuenzle
Fijian Drua 28
Tries: Dyer, Radaniva, Radrodro, Narequva
Cons: Tikotani 3, Dyer
QUEENSLAND COUNTRY VS BRISBANE CITY
Country has won the Andy Purcell Cup in a 42-26 victory over Brisbane City in the Queensland derby to keep their NRC finals hopes alive after a rampaging return to form.
After a poor fortnight, during which they lost to Sydney and Melbourne with sub-par performances, Country played the intense, physical style they've become renowned for from the kick-off to give City little chance.
The bonus-point victory, in front of a strong crowd at Marley Brown Oval in Gladstone, pushes Queensland Country to fifth place, level on points with NSW Country, although the Eagles have a game in hand, while City have been leapfrogged by Canberra but remain in the four with two games remaining.
Led by halfback Tate McDermott and no.8 Harry Wilson, Country were relentless, giving City little in one of their most consistent showings of the season.
Queensland Country 42
Tries: Wilson 2, McDermott 2, Boardman, Daugunu
Cons: Saifoloi 6
Yellow card: Daugunu 78'
Brisbane City 26
Tries: Lucas 2, Paenga-Amosa, McReight
Cons: Lucas 3
Yellow card: Smith 18'