Pretoria - Table-topping UP-Tuks made a big statement with a comprehensive 53-8 victory over three-time FNB Varsity Cup champions Maties in Pretoria on Monday.
The two-time champions scored seven tries in front of their home crowd to retain their place at the top of the standings, one log point ahead of UFS-Shimlas who are the only other unbeaten side left in the competition after round three.
UFS-Shimlas ran riot in the first-ever Varsity Cup Bloemfontein derby, handing local rivals CUT a big 57-0 defeat in terrible conditions at the CUT Rugby Stadium.
UJ moved past NWU-Pukke into third place after earning a hard-fought 10-8 win against them in Johannesburg, while defending champions UCT retained the Monte Taljaard trophy with a comfortable 40-13 victory over NMMU on a windy Green Mile.
It was the first defeat of the season for NWU-Pukke, who fought back well but had to be content with a bonus point against UJ, who showed plenty of heart to hang on for the win under pressure and bounce back from defeat to UFS-Shimlas at home last week.
In Bloemfontein the only thing standing in UFS-Shimlas' way was the inclement weather, with play briefly suspended at the start of the second half due to a thunderstorm, but even that could not stop them from running in nine tries against their cross-town rivals CUT.
Conditions also played a big role in Cape Town, with the notorious wind on the Green Mile making things tricky in the coastal clash between UCT and NMMU, but the Ikeys were in a different class on the night - outscoring the Madibaz by five tries to two in the end.
That leaves the defending champions UCT in fifth position, just one log point behind NWU-Pukke whose bonus point in Johannesburg was enough to see them stay in the top four with both teams picking up a win, a draw and a loss from their first three games.
In the final match of the night UP-Tuks handed Maties their first defeat of the season following consecutive draws against UCT and NWU-Pukke, leaving the Stellenbosch side down in seventh place behind NMMU on points difference.
In the Varsity Shield UWC fought back bravely to salvage a thrilling 37-37 draw with the unbeaten Wits, and UKZN proved too strong for Fort Hare, picking up a 21-13 win in Alice.
The first round of the Varsity Young Guns competition saw UFS notch a big 44-8 win against CUT, while in Pretoria two-time champions UP-Tuks beat the UCT Trojans 45-20 and in Johannesburg NWU-Pukke registered a 37-29 win against UJ.
The Steinhoff Koshuisrugby Championship also got underway on Monday, with Vishuis from UFS beating Bleomfontein rivals Tigers 36-12, Bastion from UJ earning a 12-7 win against Cobras on the Green Mile and Mopanie picking up a valuable 44-34 win against Medies in Pretoria.