Long after their last premiership match - a sixth-straight grand final triumph - a new-look North Tamworth showed their wares at a warm Dungowan on Sunday afternoon.
There was much interest in seeing how Norths fared against the Cowboys in the season-opener.
With no Shane Wadwell, Kieran Fisher, Richard Glegg, Nic Dobson, Chris Hunt and Andrew Moodie (all left after the Bears' 2019 premiership win, their last match), it was Norths' chance to show rivals they remain the side to beat.
After an intense, error-ridden opening to the match, Norths channelled the Bears of the recent past and led 30-6 when solidly built Fijian flyer Tevita Peceli Lagimiri streaked down the right side of the field to score - reward for an eyeing-catching display on debut in Group 4.
North Tamworth had led 12-6 at the break.
It was during the break that Cowboys player-coach Shaun Ferguson, out injured on Sunday, told his charges they could pull off the upset.
And while that never came close to materialising, after Norths wrestled control of the clash, the home side finished with a bang: three unanswered tries.
North Tamworth's premiership-winning coach Brad McManus, back in charge after two seasons out of the job, said the Bears were "pretty rusty".
He also said Dungowan's late surge should not have happened, but added: "It is what it is."
"They're a new side," he said. "We have different combinations - we're trying to get them to gel."
McManus added that he was "pretty happy" with the performance.
Bears captain Scott Blanch left the field with a shoulder injury, Bears lock Josh Schmiedel suffered a leg injury and was also replaced and Cowboys No 9 Clay Frendin sustained what appeared to be a serious leg injury.
NORTH TAMWORTH 30 (M Sheridan, J York, T Peceli Lagimiri, D Kelly, T Cegunaivali tries; J McManus 5 goals) d DUNGOWAN 22 (M Bowen, L Mack, S Swan, M Wilson tries; T Taylor 3 goals)
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