They travelled almost 35,000 kilometres in a month to chase a Super Rugby title but the ACT Brumbies' bid for championship redemption started in front of a handful of fans and defence cadets.
But what was supposed to be a Super Rugby warm up turned into a dog fight and ''wake up call'' for the Brumbies against the ACT XV at Duntroon on Friday night.
The Brumbies won the match 38-7. But a week out from their round-one clash against the Queensland Reds, a group of determined part-time Canberra club players held the Brumbies to 7-7 at half-time.
It was a scrappy performance as the Brumbies pushed passes, lacked some intensity and turned over too much ball at the breakdown.
Skipper Ben Mowen admitted his team would suffer if it didn't rectify its problems immediately.
''The ACT XV caught us on the hop with the intensity they brought, but it was a good hit out because we were well short in some areas and if we do that again next week we won't get the result,'' Mowen said.
''It wasn't up to standard. But it doesn't worry me, the guys responded and that's the mental challenge.
''You can sometimes think things will happen instead of earning it, but the ACT XV made us earn everything.''
The Brumbies had hoped to use the low-key trial to fine tune areas of their game before taking on the Reds.
Wallabies centre Pat McCabe had some nervous moments when he was crunched in a head knock again.
But despite breaking his neck twice since November 2012, McCabe got through 70 minutes, the most game time he's seen in almost a year.
The Brumbies' Australian rivals were ramping up their preparations in trials against Super Rugby oppositions.
But the Brumbies got a bigger test than they expected as a gutsy and determined ACT XV side saw a chance to cause a massive upset against last season's Super Rugby grand finalists.
In the end the Brumbies' superior fitness overpowered the ACT representative side.
''It's a good wake-up call,'' Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham said. ''It's the quality of opposition we're looking for, we're keen to get the pre-season development of the team. We've got eight games in a row to start the Super Rugby season and this was a really good fit for us.''
The Brumbies play the Reds next Saturday night. They are set to welcome back Wallabies outside centre Tevita Kuridrani (suspension) and lock Sam Carter (calf injury).
ACT BRUMBIES 38 (Ben Mowen 2, Pat McCabe, Siliva Siliva, Jesse Mogg, Robbie Coleman tries; Jesse Mogg 3, Nic White conversions) bt ACT XV 7 (Tom Staniforth try; Rodney Iona conversion) at Duntroon on Friday night.