Sydney (AFP) - The NSW Waratahs went top of the Australian conference with a 31-8 bonus point win over South Africa's Northern Bulls on Saturday, but their joy was tempered by a serious injury to Wallaby star Kurtley Beale.
The Waratahs outscored the Pretoria-based Bulls four tries to one with a try double to scrum-half Nick Phipps, but the win was soured by Beale's setback in the opening minute of the Sydney match.
Beale, who had only just announced signing a lucrative deal to play for Wasps in England next season, fell awkwardly while jumping for a high ball.
The Wallaby back was treated for a left knee injury and was carried from the field on a stretcher and took no further part in the game.
Team medics later said Beale may have injured his patellar tendon which, depending on the severity of the injury, could mean months out of the game.
Beale is now unlikely to play for the Wallabies in next month's three-Test home series against England.
But despite the disruption of Beale's injury seconds after kick-off, the Waratahs improved in the second half to win comfortably.
Phipps scored two tries, laid on the final pass for another try by Dean Mumm before replacement prop Angus Taavao-Matau clinched the fourth try and a bonus point crashing over under the cross bar in the final minute.
Bernard Foley kicked four conversions and a penalty from six attempts.
The Bulls, beaten 23-6 by the ACT Brumbies in Canberra last week, mounted few attacks in the second half as the Waratahs, led by lock Dave Dennis, took charge.
The win pushed the Waratahs one point clear of the Brumbies in the Australian conference, with the Brumbies having next weekend off and the Sydneysiders facing the Canterbury Crusaders in New Zealand.
"We grew slowly as the game went on, lots of penalties in the first half, so I'm really happy with the end result," Waratahs skipper Michael Hooper said.
"I was happy with our forwards going through the middle and the backs sharpened up so to get a win and a bonus point is most pleasing.
"Pleased we are getting away and home wins now and we face a huge test in the next few weeks against Kiwi outfits, so it's an exciting challenge and the momentum is great at the moment."
Bulls skipper Adriaan Strauss said it was a tough end to a hard three weeks touring in Australia.
"We were in it in the first half and in the second half they got a lot of yards on us and we had to force the play out of areas that we didn't actually want to and it put us under a lot of pressure," Strauss said.
The Bulls return home and will face the Western Stormers at home next week.