The Waratahs soared to the top of the Australian conference with a bonus point 31-8 win over the Bulls, but the night was soured by a serious injury to Kurtley Beale.

The result puts the Waratahs one point clear on top of the Australian conference, with a game in hand, but Beale’s injury hung over the victory.

Beale lasted just 40 seconds before a midair collision with Bulls number eight Leibenberg Hanro left him on the ground, with a suspected patella tendon issue.

Clutching at his knee, Beale was attended to by medical staff, who conducted a multitude of tests, before calling for the stretcher.

If the prognosis is correct, Beale could be set for a long layoff, putting him in doubt for much of the Wallabies Test season, let alone his Super Rugby campaign.

With a multitude of injuries to the Wallabies incumbent inside backs, Beale’s absence could open the door for one of Christian Lealiifano or Samu Kerevi to push for a Test spot against England.

While Beale’s injury took some of the sheen off the result, it was a hugely significant win for the Waratahs, with a Nick Phipps double sparking a bonus-point victory.

The Waratahs were very nearly left to rue another lost bonus point, after coughing up a 73rd minute try, but replacement prop Angus Ta’avao crossed under the posts at the death to seal the game.

Phipps managed to draw the first try in the 35th minute, escaping the grasps of Bulls defenders and taking an opportunity off the ground to reach over the line.

Tian Schoeman pegged three points back for the Bulls, with a penalty after the half-time siren.

The Waratahs managed to convert a 16-phase attack four minutes into the second half, with Dean Mumm sneaking through a gap in defence to cross.

A 56th minute Bernard Foley penalty stretched the Waratahs’ lead to 14 points.

Phipps had his second in the 70th minute, with a bonus point and the outright conference lead in their grasp, before Bulls replacement Andries Swanepoel scored in the corner with seven minutes left.

A yellow card to Bulls openside Johannes Kirsten gave the Waratahs a one-man advantage and they took their second bonus point chance just in the nick of time, through Ta’avao.

The Waratahs have a chance to extend their advantage over the Brumbies next weekend, with the Canberra side on a bye as NSW heads to Christchurch to face the Crusaders.

Waratahs 31

(Tries: Phipps 2, Mumm, Ta’avao  Pens: Foley  Cons: Foley 4)

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Bulls 8

(Tries: Swanepoel Pens: Schoeman)