There was a timely reminder to Blues coach Laurie Daley from Penrith prop James Tamou of what he can offer with a mammoth effort including 209 metres and a strong try from short range.
His clubmate Tyrone Peachey also racked up 173 metres and was a constant threat with ball in hand at left centre. Another Penrith Origin hopeful, Bryce Cartwright, had a mixed afternoon – there were some poor passes and a couple of errors but he was hard to bring down when he opted to run it and finished with a late match-sealing try.
JAMES TAMOU STATS: 209 METRES, 27 TACKLES, 1 TRY
Chad Townsend's controlled kicking game was arguably the difference between the two sides in the first half and while he may have a few players in front of him in Origin terms, Daley could do worse than to pair him with his clubmate and Origin certainty James Maloney. And while he may be down the Origin pecking order, it was a fine representative debut for popular Knights winger Nathan Ross with a game-high eight tackle busts.
For Country, back-rower Tariq Sims had a massive impact with two line breaks in his game-high 235 metres and his Dragons teammate Jack de Belin was also impressive with 155 metres, 31 tackles and four tackle busts.
Young Bulldogs back-rower Adam Elliott added plenty of spark, scoring one try and nearly bagging a second but halves Tyrone Roberts and Cody Walker were disappointingly quiet and failed to create much pressure at the end of attacking sets.
The City slickers opened the scoring in the 10th minute through veteran Eels back-rower David Gower, who ran a nice left-edge line off a Townsend pass.
While Country had plenty of quality ball they struggled to build pressure through their kicks and it took until an opportunistic Anthony Don 80-metre intercept in the 36th minute from a telegraphed Bryce Cartwright pass for the Country boys to get on the board.
A Tyrone Peachey line break set City on the attack late in the half and with the clock ticking down, a penalty against Country presented City a gift two points on the stroke of half-time.
A period of sustained possession at the Country line threatened to push City further ahead and while Country held on for a few sets the pressure eventually told when Tamou smashed over in the 49th minute.
The match started to really open up midway through the second half; a Sims line break off a Nathan Cleary pass was brought spectacularly undone by a wonderful Nathan Ross chase, with the Knights winger not only running down the big Dragons forward but stripping the ball in the process to reclaim possession.
Country hung onto the momentum though and a Michael Gordon line break set the scene for Elliott to carve his way between Peachey and Cleary to get it back to 14-10 with a quarter of the game remaining.
Despite a few attacking chances, Country couldn't find the late try to steal a win and instead it was Cartwright who cashed in after a kick ricocheted around with skipper Paul Gallen given the honour of kicking the easy conversion in his representative swansong.
City Origin 20 (Gower, Tamou, Cartwright tries; Gutherson 3, Gallen goals) defeated Country Origin 10 (Don, Elliott tries; Gordon goal) at Glen Willow Sports Complex, Mudgee. Half-time: City 8-6. Crowd: 8,322.
This article first appeared on nrl.com