By Steve Spinks
The crowd at Lismore's Oakes Oval was eerily quiet last night.
NSW Country had lost the annual representative rugby league match against City 29-22.
But it was a triumphant return for former Lismore Workers captain-coach Graham Murray who coached the City side to victory.
Murray was enthusiastic about his side's win even though it wasn't the popular outcome at his former home ground.
"As I said during the week, Lismore Workers gave me my first senior coaching job," Murray said.
"To come back here and coach a winning side is a tremendous feeling."
Despite a brief fightback early in the second-half led by halfback Trent Barrett and former Marist Brothers and St John's College Woodlawn student Amos Roberts on the wing, Country were lacklustre.
City led 22-0 at half-time and the closest the Bush boys got was 22-18 midway through the second-half.
Bush captain Danny Buderus was forthright after the loss.
"We only had six of 16 completions in the first half," the hooker said.
"I don't care who you're playing, you could be playing Byron Bay, and you'd get that score on you."
Despite the disastrous start, the Country fightback looked like it could sweep City away.
But the turning point was, funnily enough, a City sinbinning.
Roberts had made a long break and found Preston Campbell in support who was dragged down by City centre Ryan Cross.
Cross infringed in the play on the ball and was sin-binned.
However, instead of putting City to the sword, Country bumbled their way through their next four sets and City second-rower Anthony Watmough scored to push out the city slickers by 10 with only 12 players on the field.
Country hit back through Roberts which gave the the locals some hope, but a Brent Sherwin field goal put the match beyond doubt.
For the locals, Roberts was the standout.
He scored two tries and could be a bolter for a wing spot in an extended State of Origin squad which is named on Monday.
Casino's Matt King was solid without being outstanding and he was probably overshadowed by Cross.
Murwillumbah's Luke Covell was very involved on the other wing and landed three of four conversions.
Barrett was outstanding in the second-half and will be selected as the State of Origin five-eighth.
In the first half, Country simply never got out of second gear.
From the moment City centre Luke Lewis scored in the fourth minute the capacity Oakes Oval crowd of 8553 had little to cheer about.
Country kept dropping the ball like it was going out of fashion and if they weren't coughing up possession they were giving away penalties.
In fact, the only thing the crowd could cheer about was two uncharacteristic missed goal kicks by City and Canterbury winger Hazem El Masri.
There appeared to be little intensity or sting in the Country defence.
This was emphasised when City hooker Mark Riddell crashed over from dummy-half and then winger Eric Grothe crossed out wide down a short blindside.
Both were soft tries and should never have been scored.
City captain Steve Menzies scored soon after with a clever grubber to blow the half-time scoreline out to 22-0.