SOUTHERN Beaches inflicted a first loss on premiers Hamilton, Merewether scored in injury-time to pip Lake Macquarue and University recorded the upset of the season against Maitland in a drama-charged round 16 of the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union.
With two rounds remaining the top five is anything but settled.
A week after shutting down second-placed Wanderers, Southern Beaches did a repeat on the Hawks, scoring 25-unanswered points in the second half to win 32-14.
Steve Sione scored a brace to give the Hawks a 14-7 lead at the break, but the second half was all the visitors.
They controlled possession and ran in three tries to stun the home fans.
At Walters Park, Merewether appeared down and out, trailing 33-10 midway through the second half.
Winger Kostandreas Sykiotis crossed in the 62nd minute to give the Greens a sniff.
Until that point, Lake Macquarie were in total control.
All of a sudden, they started making errors and turning over possession.
Merewether fullback Jay Strachan, who was again outstanding, stepped inside and raced 20 metres to score and close to 33-22 in the 71st minute.
The Roos were then reduced to 14 men when Jack Olgivy was sent to the sin bin for a repeated infringement. Josh Stewart burrowed over a minute last to cut the margin to 33-29 with three minutes remaining.
From the kick-off, the Greens moved the ball up the field. The strung phase after phase together. The Roos defended as those their lives depended on it. But in the end they were caught short on the left. KJ Lam made a desperate attempt to tackle Kieren Donovaro but he couldn’t stop the winger from scoring and snatching a 34-33 win.
The bonus-point win moved the Greens three points above Lake Macquarie in fifth place with two rounds remaining.
University produced their best performance of the season to derail the Blacks 28-13 at Bernie Curran Oval.
Uni led 15-6 at the break. Maitland hit back to close the gap to 18-13 before the Students kicked again.
Dan Wells scored two tries and the boot of fellow import Fausto Delli Carpini landed three penalties and two conversions.
At No.2 Sportsground, Wanderers rallied late after The Waratahs lost two to players to the sinbin to win 40-30.
After cruising the 23-6 lead at half-time, the Two Blues switched off. Incredibly Waratah ran in four tries to lead 30-26.
However, the Tahs ill discipline proved costly and Wanderers used the two-man advantage to score two tries in the final five minutes and escape with a win.
In the final game, Nelson Bay out-classed Singleton 60-14 to end a six game losing streak.
Pointscore: Hamilton 70, Wanderers 69, Southern Beaches 58, Maitland 45, Merewether 43, Lake Macquarie 40, Waratahs 36, Nelson Bay 33, University 27, Singleton 1.
Premier 1: Hamilton Hawks 14 (Steve Sione 2 tries, Connor Mulhearn 2 con) def by Southern Beaches 32 (Mitch Gibson, Lachy Waide, James Vaka, Tyler Ostle tries, Adrian Delore 2, Michael Delore con, Michael Delore, Adrian Delore penalties)
Wanderers 40 (Nick Cook 2, Rhys Dombkins, Dillon Rowney, George Ashworth tries, Luke Simmons 3 con, 2 pen) def The Waratahs 30 (Chris Hicks 2, Sevoluni Bailey, Cark Manu tries, Dane Sherratt 2 con, Dane Sherratt 2 pen)
Lake Macquarie 33 (Caileb Gerrard, Ray Alo, Willie Fraser, Barcelona Lupematasila tries, Brendan Holliday 2 con, Brendan Holliday 3 pen) def by Merewether Carlton 34 (tries Kieren Danovaro 2, Josh Stewart, Corey Nash, Jay Strachan, Kostandreas Sykiotis, con Ed Bacigalupo 2)
University of Newcastle 28 (tries Dan Wells 2, Luke Harwood tries, Fausto Delli Carpini 2 con, Fausto Delli Carpini 3 pen) def Maitland 13
Nelson Bay 60 (Zion Takarua 2, Todd Arnold 2, Ben Chessum, Nathan Oliver, Chad Northcott, Michael Hotene, Mitchell Gibbs, Jack Arthur tries, Jack Arthur 4 con, Kerrod Mclean) def Singleton 14)