It might have been a trial game but the meaning behind winning and losing was painstakingly clear after the Waratahs and Rebels laboured off Albury Sports Ground on Saturday night after playing in near 40 degree heat.
Happiest among them were the Rebels, who doggedly fought back from being 21-12 down at half-time to finish 33-28 winners, proving their pre-game declaration that winning - not trialling - really was on their minds.
As new Rebels coach Tony McGahan said after the Rebels claimed their first win in a Super Rugby trial in their three-year existence: ''It was hard to get a read on it because both sides used 30-odd players but - for us - we want to develop a winning culture, and this was a part of it.''
If the backbone shown by the Rebels - who never let up despite Waratahs winger Peter Betham scoring a late try - is a gauge, exciting times await.
Key to that will be captain and back-rower Scott Higginbotham, a tower of strength in his first game since injury and surgery ruined his season last year.
For the Waratahs, losing hurt. Back-rower Stephen Hoiles, on trial for a contract, was reluctant to overstate his performance, which included a try shortly before half-time.
''It's hard to get too happy with yourself because we didn't win, and there were things, from a team aspect, where we were overall quite disappointing,'' Hoiles said.
But, as NSW coach Michael Cheika said with a wry grin after pinpointing the attacking ruck and turnover defence as problems, such a loss can serve a purpose.
''It's not too bad to struggle a little bit, to keep everyone grounded and make sure [they know] we have got work to do,'' he said.
Cheika gave Hoiles - who is trying to resurrect his injury-plagued career and whose try helped the Waratahs extend their lead to 21-12 at half-time - cause for optimism, saying: ''He has earned a shot at another go at it.''
That prompted a smile from Hoiles, who said: ''It's nice to hear … It's going to be like that for a while. I just have to keep plugging away.''