IT was without a doubt scrappy, but as Bathurst Bulldogs came away from their Blowes Cup season opener against Orange Emus with a 19-10 win it was more than securing the competition points that had prop Joel Harper smiling.
Naturally he enjoyed the feeling of beating the defending premiers and doing it at Ashwood Park, but that his front row partner in crime Bailey Warren got to experience that on debut was just as satisfying.
"Big hats off to Bailey, being a fellow front rower, he played 80 minutes and for every single second of that 80 minutes he went well," Harper said.
Just Warren showed he's worthy of a spot in Bulldogs' first XV on Saturday, so to did another debutant in centre Sione Naufahu.
He scored the try which sealed the win with 82 seconds left on the clock.
"It was unreal, for a fellah new to the club to get a try like that, he was a pretty happy man," Harper said.
"Emus are always the benchmark and to go well against them is always great for any debutant.
"Emus are always a very hard team, but we were just the winners of the scrap really. It's good just to build to start our season, see what we need to move on and improve."
Handling is one area that both Bulldogs and Emus will need to improve on as many promising attacking plays came to nought due to knock-ons.
But there was still venom in tackles, Bulldogs muscled up in the scrum and in the second half when Emus were reduced to 14 men due to Sam Greatbatch being yellow carded, they rallied and did not concede any points during that 10-minute period.
Another positive for Bulldogs was that their first try was created by a player filling a new position. Centre turned winger Adam Plummer made a bustling run down the blindside after a scrum and found fullback Josh Weekes in support.
However, Bulldogs did not back up that 12th minute effort up as Emus' Nigel Staniforth booted a penalty goal moments later to make it 5-3.
Staniforth then put Emus ahead at the 20-minute mark after Louis Carr made a break down the left flank and turned the ball back inside to his supporting centre. The conversion made it 10-5.
Staniforth had a chance to further push out that margin five minutes from the break with with a penalty goal attempt, but it was waved wide.
That meant when Bulldogs were awarded a penalty try on the back of a rolling maul four minutes into the second half, they took the lead at 12-10.
Two minutes later another penalty goal attempt from Emus was waved away and when Greatbatch was yellow carded for a late shot on Brad Glasson, the visitors were under more pressure.
Though there was no change to the score before Greatbach returned, Bulldogs had good field position.
They continued to press and when an errant pass and subsequent knock-on in the in-goal came on the back of an Emus scrum, Naufahu sprinted to ground the ball and score for Bulldogs.