James Tamou pushed his NSW Origin selection claims as City held out Country to claim the final honours in the axed annual fixture in Mudgee.
Tamou and prop partner Paul Gallen were tremendous for City in the 20-10 win, with the former scoring a try early in the second half.
However, his afternoon was dampened by news after the match that his son had been taken to Mudgee hospital with a chest infection and breathing difficulties during the match.
Albeit a NSW regular for the past five years, Tamou has been under pressure to retain his spot after an indifferent start to the season with Penrith.
But on Sunday he led the City forward pack with gusto, running for 177 metres and breaking through would-be tacklers – including two on the way to his 49th minute four-pointer.
City coach Brad Fittler says Tamou had arrived in camp earlier in the week with a point to prove.
“Jimmy was the one I thought we needed to give a chance to prove himself,” Fittler said.
“You could tell from the start of the week he thought it was a good opportunity to turn things around.”
Fittler had said earlier in the week he was happy to put anyone in the team once he had Tamou and Gallen up front.
Gallen has refused to rule out an Origin return, and proved he still had what it takes in the unlikely event that NSW coach Laurie Daley asked him to return.
He ran for 190 metres and provided four offloads in front of a crowd of 8322 at Glen Willow Stadium.
However, his team were forced to hang tough in a frantic final 20 minutes.
After Country went to the break down 8-6 and fell further back to 14-6 after Tamou’s try, they got back in the match when Adam Elliott crossed on the right edge in the 59th minute, to reduce the margin to four.
But despite a weight of possession on City’s line, Country were unable to pull off one final fairytale finish.
On one occasion, veteran Tariq Sims busted 50 metres down field and was tackled just metres from the line by City’s Clinton Gutherson.
“We just didn’t get that last try we were after – we got so close on a couple of occasions,” Country coach Craig Fitzgibbon said.
City’s Bryce Cartwright then gave the contest its last rites when he collected a loose ball to score under the posts.
City’s win came despite officials having to delay their team naming earlier in the week after a number of withdrawals.
Reserve-grader David Gower opened the scoring for City in the first half before Country winger Anthony Don scored a length-of-the-field intercept try narrow the half-time margin.