Coach Matt Lantry couldn't hide his joy after his gamble to bring in 20 new faces to the Newcastle Rebels representative squad produced instant results with a highly impressive win over a Ron Massey Cup side at Maitland Sportsground on Saturday.
The 30-20 win was as skilful as it was gutsy from the young Newcastle team.
The Rebels were against a significantly bigger side right across the park, and then had to battle with a run of injuries that meant for the last 10 minutes they had no substitutes to call on.
It also meant that fullback Sam Keenan, who scored a hat-trick of tries, had to play much of the second half on the wing after suffering a torn quad, and that Mitch Cullen had to go back despite already being injured due to a lack of alternatives.
"I have said all along that I want a new expectation from the Newcastle representative side, and I couldn't have asked for more," Lantry said.
"It was a fantastic win, and they had to do it the hard way. We had players suffer medial ligament damage, we had a concussion, a torn quad, a cork, you name it ... but the guys just kept fighting."
The win looked unlikely in the first 15 minutes when the bigger Sydney side - "their two wingers were as big as our props" - dominated proceedings, rolling forward through the middle of the ruck.
It resulted in an early try and six-nil lead with a breeze at their backs.
But somehow the Rebels held the lead to six-nil, started to get some possession and field position, and scored two quick tries to go in at half time with an 18-10 lead, playing into the breeze.
The second half in some ways was a carbon copy of the first, with the Cup side dominating the opening minutes before the Rebels settled and reasserted themselves.
Cullen, who started as lock and scored a good try under the posts, was forced to return to the field and see out the match as hooker as Newcastle's injury woes started to bite.
Maitland Picker Jayden Butterfield didn't come on until the 45th minute, then played out the rest of the game in strong fashion.
"He was strong right when we needed it - at the back end when we were hurting. He went well," Lantry said.