The ACT Brumbies are set to scour Canberra's club rugby ranks and invite first-grade players to Super Rugby training to help ease the pain of a triple back-row injury blow for the last three games of the season.
Injuries to David Pocock (fractured eye socket) and Jordan Smiler (knee), as well as Ita Vaea being forced into retirement with a heart condition, have stretched the Brumbies' back-row stocks as they chase a finals berth.
The trio's absence could force Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham to call on untested talent in the Canberra premier competition as flankers throw their hands up for selection.
Queanbeyan Whites skipper Dan Penca and Wests young gun Brodie Leaper went head-to-head in a battle at Jamison Oval on Saturday, while across town Dean Oakman-Hunt continues to press his claims for a call up.
But while the Brumbies could come knocking to give them a chance, it was the Gungahlin Eagles who fired a shot in the run to the John I Dent Cup play-offs when they stole a win against the Tuggeranong Vikings.
The Eagles survived a late scare to win 24-23 at Viking Park after Tuggeranong missed a penalty shot that would have snatched the game in the dying minutes.
The results sets alight the premiership battle as the Eagles, Vikings, Whites and Royals all jostle for bragging rights in the last month of the regular season.
The Whites all but ended Wests' faint hopes of sneaking into the top four with a hard-fought 23-13 win at Jamison, and flankers Penca and Leaper sent a reminder to the Brumbies of their talents.
Penca is one of the most respected figures in Canberra rugby, while Leaper is a teenage rising star, and both are set to be on the Brumbies' radar if they need players to boost training numbers.
Penca's breakdown presence helped the Whites wrestle the ascendancy away from Wests as they launched a second-half charge to score four tries to two.
"I think the tight games are a reflection of the competition, this is the closest I've ever seen it," said Whites coach Adam Fahey.
"It's a great competition and that's a result mainly from Brumbies being allocated back into the competition, it's increased the standard of club players and coaches. You've got to reach new heights.
"Penc is a guy who's stuck with it. It would just be fantastic if he got a chance. He didn't do himself any harm today."
Queanbeyan's 10-point win means Wests may be out of contention, but the Uni-Norths Owls are still fighting to force their way into the top four after beating Easts 40-6.
The Eagles scored their first win over a top-four team this year when they dominated the first half against the Vikings and then regathered composure to secure a one-point triumph.
The Vikings are still at the top of the ladder, but the Eagles, Whites and Royals will use the last month of the year to mount their challenge for first place.
"The second-half penalty count for us was horrendous ... our ill-discipline cost us," said Wests coach Craig Robberds.
Meanwhile, the ACT women's team will play for national championship glory on Sunday after advancing to the final against Sydney, despite losing their last pool match.
The women's side lost to Queensland 19-10 at Riverview but will play powerhouse Sydney for the title in the grand final.
AT A GLANCE
John I Dent Cup: QUEANBEYAN WHITES 23 (S Tai, R Jones, B Spears, D Matthews tries; D Matthews conversion, 2 penalties) bt WESTS 13(H Lloyd, E Sinoti tries; S Lorraway penalty), GUNGAHLIN EAGLES 24 bt TUGGERANONG VIKINGS 23, UNI-NORTHS OWLS 40 bt EASTS 6.
Second grade: Gungahlin Eagles 26 bt Tuggeranong Vikings 24, Uni-Norths Owls 41 bt Easts 14, Queanbeyan Whites 55 bt Wests 5.
Colts: Tuggeranong Vikings 26 bt Gungahlin Eagles 19, Uni-Norths Owls 54 bt Easts 7, Queanbeyan Whites 20 bt Wests 7.
First grade: Uni-Norths Owls 38 bt Easts 0, Gungahlin Eagles 28 bt Tuggeranong Vikings 12, Royals 26 bt Young 25, Queanbeyan Whites 67 bt Wests 20, Goulburn 29 bt ADFA 10, Cooma 27 bt Hall 24.
Second grade: RMC 36 bt Uni-Norths Owls 5, Tuggeranong Vikings 51 bt Gungahlin Eagles 10, Royals 33 bt Young 26, Wests 39 bt Queanbeyan Whites 19, Goulburn 22 bt ADFA 7, Cooma 40 bt Hall 0.