The NRL All Stars finally brought rugby league back to Sydney, and back to TV screens with the season rapidly approaching last night at a wet and wild CommBank Stadium in Parramatta, with the Maori team running out 16 points to 10 winners over the Indigenous side.
In a display of passion and culture, the game, for the second straight year, went down to the final minute.
A draw last year was followed this time around by the Maori team clinging onto their six-point lead to turn it into a victory by the slimmest of margins, keeping out a last-ditch attacking raid by the Indigenous.
It was exactly what the game - close all the way - deserved. While there were questions in the lead up as players, worried by COVID and a lack of preparation for the new season, withdrew, but there were no questions on the night.
The pre-match ceremony was something to behold, and so was the match. Fights are rare in the regular season, but the teams came together in scuffles on a number of occasions on Saturday evening as passion and intensity spilt over.
It might yet cost Jordan Rapana and Andrew Fifita, who were both put on report and will face a nervous wait for the judiciary to determine their fates, but the game proved once and for all that it belongs, with a crowd of more than 26,000 on hand to witness it, despite the prevailing COVID threat and horrid weather conditions.
Here are the big points from the game.
5. Maybe the Titans do have an answer at dummy half
One of the more surprising efforts in Saturday evening's game was the performance of Erin Clark.
The Titans hooking department has looked in a horrid way heading into the 2022 season. This is a team who even last year struggled at number nine, but then baffingly let Mitch Rein go, with the veteran now having joined the Parramatta Eels where he will play second fiddle to Reed Mahoney.
Clark will likely battle Melbourne Storm recruit Aaron Booth for a spot at number nine, while there has also been plenty of talk that Tanah Boyd could yet play the role, or at the very least, contribute off the bench.
Clark's performance in the All Stars game - selected to start at nine - was excellent though and he has clearly had an enormous pre-season.
The Titans so desperately need a good number nine to round out an exciting spine featuring Jayden Campbell at the back, to go with AJ Brimson and Toby Sexton in the halves, and Clark might just be that if last night is anything to go by.
He wound up with 37 tackles in 61 minutes for the Maori side, but more impressively, didn't overplay his hand and provided quality service. That is the exact role he needs to play at the Titans given the skill around him.