Johnny Mafiti might call the backline home this season but it was some knowledge from his days in the front-row that proved decisive in Saturday's outstanding Blowes Clothing Cup contest between the Dubbo Kangaroos and Forbes Platypi.
In a match which will take some beating as game of the season, the Roos escaped with a 31-29 win after Forbes' Dan Higgins missed a penalty goal attempt right on full-time.
It had seemed the Platypi were destined to score a first win of the season when they had led heading into the final five minutes but Mafiti burrowed over from close range after some sustained pressure to put the hosts back in front late on at a wet Apex Oval.
In a game which had more swings of momentum than it did scrums, there was one more late piece of drama but Higgins' attempt missed to leave the Roos firmly entrenched in the top two.
"It was pleasing. It was an ugly win and it was cold and wet in that second half and pretty bad but a win is a win," Mafiti said.
A regular in the front-row for the Roos in recent seasons, Mafiti put in a huge amount of work in the off-season and returned to the field a vastly slimmer and fitter version of himself.
That resulted into him making the move to the backline and forming a dangerous centre combination with Filisione Pauta.
He's earned plenty of praise from coach Beau Robinson and teammates for his work ethic and scored a double on Saturday, the second and match-winning five-pointer courtesy of a pick and drive more often seen prior to this season.
"I used to play in the forwards and the forward's instinct kicked in," he said with a smile.
"I thought I'd give it one more crack and I was happy the ref was there at the right place at the right time."
FT | Dubbo Roos win an absolute belter!— Nick Guthrie (@Nj_Guthrie) August 15, 2020
Forbes had chance to win via this penalty attempt right on full time but it went wide.
Forbes had led 29-26 in final five minutes but try for Roos’ Johnny Mafiti turned out to be the match winner.#CWRU20pic.twitter.com/dNWqmNvkGp
The performance from Forbes was the side's best of the season by some way and while they couldn't claim full points and remain the only side in this year's competition still without a win, captain Jack Hammond was upbeat post-game.
His Platypi had flown out of the sheds and built a 14-0 in just minutes following tries for Nick Guise and standout No. 8 Matt Coles, but the Roos soon started to get more possession.
Ben Knaggs crossed first and from the kick-off a miskicked clearance from Jake Styles was taken by flying fullback Jayden Blake and went through the hands of Filisione Pauta, Tim Beach, and Will Archer before being put back inside for Styles to score brilliant five-pointer.
Styles converted to level it up but Forbes was back in front not too long after via a penalty try when Beach collected winger Taylor Krause high close to the line.
The sides swapped tries before the break, the Roos via debutant Hamish Fuller, to leave Forbes with a 24-19 break but the Platypi played the second stanza without the injured Krause and new flyhalf Andrew Saar, who suffered a head knock.
I'm very happy with the boys and this shows what we're capable of.Forbes' Jack Hammond
Referee Fraser Robertson, officiating for first grade for the first time, was a busy man as the rain fell in the second half and while Forbes stuck it to he Roos again it was the hosts who left the ground as victors after the action-packed final few minutes.
"It does [hurt] but it was a big improvement in what it's been like," Hammond said.
"It just shows how we can play and we were very close ... I'm very happy with the boys and this shows what we're capable of.
"Dubbo is a very handy side and has some very elusive backs and are one of the contenders and we matched it with them for 80."
Forbes may have matched the Roos but it was the Dubbo side which escaped with the win to keep the pressure on competition leaders Emus.
Emus handed the Roos their first loss of the season last weekend and had the bye on Saturday.
"Last weekend we could have won but we didn't so the boys were hurting and the goal was to just get that win," Mafiti said, before speaking about his own transformation from a front rower to centre.
"I'm happy with it and I wouldn't be here with my family's support too and I'm happy to get back with the boys and get the win today."