RIVERINA have made up for their 50-24 thumping at the hands of Northern Rivers last year with a 32-16 triumph in their Tier 2 Country Championships opening round encounter at Bathurst's Carrington Park on Saturday.
In a top-drawer game of rugby league the scoreboard to some degree flattered Northern Rivers given that their opposition missed five of seven attempted conversions.
But for the majority of the game the result was still in the balance before a late flurry of tries locked up the result for Riverina.
"I thought our boys did really will in that first 20 minutes of the game, not so much in the next 20 as we let them back into it but I thought half-time came at a good stage for us even allowing for the try they scored right on the break," Riverina coach Josh Cale said.
"But we can't look to far ahead yet and a lot of things will depend on how we come out of this game in terms of injuries; we had a fair few changes late before this game from the side we originally picked."
The best way to describe Riverina's performance was clinical, as their methodical use of the ball through the middle of the field and their crisp ball movement to the edges frequently had the opposition scrambling in defence.
Remarkably, winger Jack Lyons wasn't in the squad until Josh Bryant was forced to withdraw late, and the South City Bulls flyer made the most of it with four tries and had another disallowed.
Fellow winger David Milne picked up two himself.
The opening exchanges were good from both sides but the early signs were positive for Riverina as props Andrew Cowhan and Brent Pike constantly had them on the front foot.
From a Northern Rivers mistake, they sent to the ball wide and a brilliant three-man cut-out pass from half Kyle McCarthy landed on Lyons' chest as he crossed for the opener.
In the 14th minute, back to back sets led to another try to Lyons, this time from a backline movement off a scrum though for the second time the conversion was missed and Riverina's 8-0 lead didn't look as imposing as it could have.
On the back of lock Jack Durheim, Northern Rivers finally began to find their feet in the territorial battle and after a penalty, five-eighth Chris King sent back-rower Jonty Van de Sheur over for their first try.
At 8-6, suddenly it was game-on once more.
A crucial moment came on the half-hour mark when Riverina fullback Johnny Teleaga somehow pulled down King when he looked certain to score, and five minutes later Riverina capitalised thanks to a good short-side play from centre Usiai O'Sullivan.
He put Lyons across for try number three to make it 14-6 as McCarthy broke the goal-kicking drought.
VIDEO: What the coaches had to say after full time:
With 20 seconds to play until the break, Northern Rivers pulled themselves into the contest once more as reserve Alwyn Roberts kicked early in the tackle count, with flying winger Mitchell Krause toeing the ball ahead once more and touching down.
At 14-12 down, things looked a lot rosier for Northern Rivers than they could have, and they had finished the half looking like the stronger side.
That continued in the second stanza and eight minutes after the break Krause ran 80 metres only to be corralled, and his team-mates blew what looked like a certain try if they shifted the ball left.
It proved crucial.
After having a fourth try disallowed for going into touch, Lyons made up for it after a good pass from McCarthy to restore a six point lead, and when a Nathan Rose 'grubber was touched down by Milne the game looked over.
Northern Rivers raised hopes briefly when Billy King took an intercept and ran 90 metres to score and get the margin back to 22-16, but Riverina closed things out with two more tries to O'Sullivan and Milne.
"Both our props were really good I thought and made some really strong carries when the game was starting, that set us up well," Cale said.
"Wingers have a job and that's to finish off and both of ours were fantastic, Jack is only a young kid who came in late, and he and David did their jobs perfectly.
"I thought Cameron Woo in the back-row was sensational as well, especially coming out of our own half."
RIVERINA 32 (Jack Lyons 4, David Milne 2, Usiai O'Sullivan tries; Kyle McCarthy, James Luff goals) def NORTHERN RIVERS 16 (Mitchell Krause, Billy King, Jonty Van de Sheur tries; Chris King 2 goals)