Super Rugby reputations counted for nothing as Wests and Royals belted each other in a local rugby dogfight, but in the end some ACT Brumbies class made the difference to start the John I Dent Cup season.
Fotu Auelua and Jesse Mogg combined to score all of Wests points as they played one man down for the entire second half to claim a scrappy 10-0 win at Radford College.
The Brumbies contingent - which also included Wests flanker Sean Doyle and Royals lock Tom Staniforth - copped a gobful from passionate supporters desperate to start the year with a victory.
But Auelua's first-half try and Mogg's conversion and penalty proved to be the decisive factor.
"It was always going to be a scrappy game, and [Staniforth] was there on the other side just chipping away," Auelua
"It's awesome to have the competition back now ... I'm just trying to build a bit of confidence back up and get some [kilometres] in my legs.
"[Scoring] is always a goal, you've got to make up the difference somewhere so I'll take the opportunities I get to help the boys off."
Wests were bolstered before kick-off by the surprise appearance of former NRL player Ratu Tagive, who was initially named to play for the Queanbeyan Whites in their round-one game against Gungahlin.
But Tagive backflipped to join Easts in the days before kick-off and suited up in the wing in a bizarre twist to the line-up.
Auelua is working his was back to get game fitness after Super Rugby pre-season knee surgery, while Mogg is returning after having a shoulder operation and ear infection which affected his balance.
They didn't have things all their own way in the first game of Canberra's premier division season, but they did their best with limited opportunities.
Fans took the chance to get up close and weren't shy in targeting Mogg and Doyle, while Staniforth was the centre of attention when an altercation with Wests prop Ben Coutts led to Coutts being red-carded in the first minute of the second half.
It meant Wests were down to 14 men trying to defend a seven-point half-time lead after Auelua crashed his way through defenders to score in the opening minutes of the game.
Royals were defiant in defence and repelled wave after wave of Wests' attack and refused to give in, despite barely touching the ball for long periods.
But their poor handling and too many turnovers crippled their hopes of coming from behind, failing to hold the ball for longer than one phase in on at least seven occasions in the second half.
"I was pretty happy with our first 40 minutes, particularly given we didn't have much ball," said Royals coach Wayne Southwell. "We struggled to get ourselves out of pressure situations, there's no lack of enthusiasm but we didn't execute very well in the second half. There were more positives than anything else."
A Mogg penalty goal from more than 40 metres out into the wind in the second half sealed the win for Wests.
"It was ugly, we probably had enough ball to win three games," said Wests coach Craig Robberds. "It's round one, I was impressed with our defence and we're still working on combinations. Scrappy, that's probably the best way to sum it up. But you can't knock a win."
Meanwhile, the Australian Barbarians side lost to Queensland 36-29 in the Australian under-20s championships at Viking Park. The Barbarians, who boast 12 Canberra players, take on NSW on Monday.
AT A GLANCE
John I Dent Cup: WESTS 10 (Fotu Auelua try; Jesse Mogg conversion, penalty) bt ROYALS 0; QUEANBEYAN WHITES 26 bt GUNGAHLIN EAGLES 8; UNI-NORTHS OWLS 20 bt EASTS 5
Australian under-20s championships: Queensland 36 bt Australian Barbarians 29; NSW 64 bt Tonga 17