Country v City: Five key points
A fun clash with plenty of intriguing match-ups, and the crowd making it all the better, these are the five key points to come from Country Origin's 34-22 win over City Origin.
James Maloney beats Josh Reynolds by a unanimous points decision
While the 'Fight of the Century' between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr was going down, the battle for New South Wales No.6 jumper was only just beginning.
Josh Reynolds tried his hardest for City but it was Country skipper James Maloney who stood tall and guided his team to victory in a man-of-the-match effort.
Being the only kicker in the team, Maloney withstood plenty of pressure and ended the game with three try assists to cap off a solid outing.
"I thought [Maloney] was in everything," Country coach Trent Barrett said post-game.
"We were caught on the hop at the start with a couple of little things and a lot of their offloads were sticking but I thought James steadied the ship with his kicking.
"There was a lot of pressure on him being our sole kicker and he has done terrific all week and he did his Origin chances no harm."
City coach Brad Fittler couldn't help but compliment the Roosters half.
"Jimmy Maloney was a standout from that point of view [withstanding pressure]," Fittler said post-game.
"His kicking and goal kicking was obviously great and he made sure he handled the pressure better than anybody on the day."
Reynolds's season goes from bad to worse
While he is the incumbent NSW five-eighth, Reynolds did his chances of a recall no favours with what Fittler labelled a mixed bag performance.
The fact he ended the game on report twice – once for tripping and the other a high tackle – means he could miss the next couple of weekends too.
"[Josh] throws everything at it so sometimes what comes with that isn't always pretty. Josh has to learn to control himself," Fittler said.
"Sometimes all of that effort puts a lot of pressure on him and I think that was the situation in the [tripping] play.
"He's wholehearted. You can't knock him for that. It's the nature of the beast, Phil Gould used to have a good saying: 'If you grab the tail, you get the whole cat' and it's like that in every game. You get the whole cat with him every time."
Fittler, Barrett nominate the day's best
While Maloney finished the game with man-of-the-match honours, both coaches in Fittler and Barrett had their say on their best men, and perhaps Origin bolters.
"I think [Andrew] Fifita came up with some nice plays which he is very capable. I thought Blake Austin was outstanding. Matty Moylan showed some good glimpses. Even Waqa Blake for a person who anyone barely knows had some outstanding touches," Fittler said.
Barrett however was more complimentary of his forward pack rather than individual performances.
"Our starting back row of [Tyson] Frizell, [Joel] Thompson and Josh Jackson are tough players and they could handle Origin easy," the Country mentor said.
"I thought our bench was good too. We brought Mitch Rein and the three big fellas [Ryan James, Tariq Sims and Paul Vaughan] off the bench and we didn't have a bad player to be honest."
Wagga locals come out in force
With plenty of other events on – from as a big as the 'Fight of the Century' to as small as the antiques markets at nearby Adelong – there were plenty of reasons why the Wagga locals could have gone anywhere other than the footy.
But the Wagga faithful turned out in huge numbers, as per the 9000-strong sell out crowd, with McDonald's Park hill chockers even an hour before kick-off. It's a sure-tell sign that the NRL needs to head out to the country more often especially when they had to stop selling tickets because they exhausted allocation.
"Wagga was fantastic and the crowd there, it was a really good atmosphere there and the boys were excited to play. Wagga's been awesome to us and we have had a great week," Barrett confirmed.
Country v City still belongs on the rugby league calendar
You could tell by the passion of both camps that this game means much more than what many people let on.
Billed as an Origin trial, realistically not many of the 34 players will get the chance to pull on the sky blue jumper so the fact they can get a representative game in before the big show means all the much more.
This was expressed in two instances: when Fifita and Ryan Hinchcliffe went toe-to-toe and everyone joined in, and when Jarrod Croker scored the match-sealing try – the reactions of both teams simply proved it all.
"I always hear a lot of complaints about how we don't look after country footy and all that sort of stuff. But I have to stay this year, I've watched the Cairns and Bathurst games and it was nothing on this," Fittler said.
"It was chockers and people were spilling out over the edges so it would be a great way to show when we do have country games that we have the same kind of vibe as this. It has been absolutely brilliant for the past couple of days. It was a fantastic experience for all of us."