City Origin has done enough to down Country 20-10 in Mudgee in the final ever City-Country fixture with a handful of Origin hopefuls putting their hands up for higher honours.
There was a timely reminder to Blues coach Laurie Daley from Penrith prop James Tamou of what he can offer with a mammoth effort including 209 metres and a strong try from short range.
His clubmate Tyrone Peachey also racked up 173 metres and was a constant threat with ball in hand at left centre. Another Penrith Origin hopeful, Bryce Cartwright, had a mixed afternoon – there were some poor passes and a couple of errors but he was hard to bring down when he opted to run it and finished with a late match-sealing try.
Chad Townsend's controlled kicking game was arguably the difference between the two sides in the first half and while he may have a few players in front of him in Origin terms, Daley could do worse than to pair him with his clubmate and Origin certainty James Maloney. And while he may be down the Origin pecking order, it was a fine representative debut for popular Knights winger Nathan Ross with a game-high eight tackle busts.
For Country, back-rower Tariq Sims had a massive impact with two line breaks in his game-high 235 metres and his Dragons teammate Jack de Belin was also impressive with 155 metres, 31 tackles and four tackle busts.
Young Bulldogs back-rower Adam Elliott added plenty of spark, scoring one try and nearly bagging a second but halves Tyrone Roberts and Cody Walker were disappointingly quiet and failed to create much pressure at the end of attacking sets.
The City slickers opened the scoring in the 10th minute through veteran Eels back-rower David Gower, who ran a nice left-edge line off a Townsend pass.
While Country had plenty of quality ball they struggled to build pressure through their kicks and it took until an opportunistic Anthony Don 80-metre intercept in the 36th minute from a telegraphed Bryce Cartwright pass for the Country boys to get on the board.
A Tyrone Peachey line break set City on the attack late in the half and with the clock ticking down, a penalty against Country presented City a gift two points on the stroke of half-time.
A period of sustained possession at the Country line threatened to push City further ahead and while Country held on for a few sets the pressure eventually told when Tamou smashed over in the 49th minute.
The match started to really open up midway through the second half; a Sims line break off a Nathan Cleary pass was brought spectacularly undone by a wonderful Nathan Ross chase, with the Knights winger not only running down the big Dragons forward but stripping the ball in the process to reclaim possession.
Country hung onto the momentum though and a Michael Gordon line break set the scene for Elliott to carve his way between Peachey and Cleary to get it back to 14-10 with a quarter of the game remaining.
Despite a few attacking chances, Country couldn't find the late try to steal a win and instead it was Cartwright who cashed in after a kick ricocheted around with skipper Paul Gallen given the honour of kicking the easy conversion in his representative swansong.
Glen Willow Regional Sports Stadium, Mudgee
City Origin 20 (David Gower, James Tamou, Bryce Cartwright tries; Clint Gutherson 2 conversions, penalty; Paul Gallen conversion).
Country Origin 10 (Anthony Don, Adam Elliott tries; Michael Gordon conversion).
Halftime: 8-6 City.
COUNTRY | Michael Gordon (Sydney Roosters); Anthony Don (Gold Coast Titans), Cheyse Blair (Melbourne Storm), TBC, Brian Kelly (Manly Warringah Sea Eagles); Cody Walker (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Tyrone Roberts (Gold Coast Titans); Dale Finucane (Melbourne Storm), Damien Cook (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Paul Vaughan (St George Illawarra Dragons); Tariq Sims (St George Illawarra Dragons), Kyle Turner (South Sydney Rabbitohs); Jack De Belin (St George Illawarra Dragons). Interchange: Connor Watson (Sydney Roosters), Matt Prior (Cronulla Sharks), Tariq Sims (St George Illawarra Dragons), Adam Elliott (Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs), Daniel Alvaro (Parramatta Eels).
CITY | Matt Moylan (Penrith Panthers); Clinton Gutherson (Parramatta Eels), Nathan Ross (Newcastle Knights), Tyrone Peachey (Penrith Panthers), Josh Addo-Carr (Melbourne Storm); Bryce Cartwright (Penrith Panthers), Chad Townsend (Cronulla Sharks); James Tamou (Penrith Panthers), Cameron McInnes (St George Illawarra Dragons), Paul Gallen (Cronulla Sharks); Curtis Sironen (Manly Sea Eagles), David Gower (Parramatta Eels); Hame Sele (St George Illawarra Dragons). Interchange: Joseph Paulo (Cronulla Sharks), Nathan Cleary (Penrith Panthers), Pauli Pauli (Newcastle Knights), Jake Marketo (St George Illawarra Dragons).