IT wasn't pretty by any stretch of the imagination but the Albion Park-Oak Flats Eagles are on the board for 2020.
The Eagles, led by new co-coaches Ian Jones and Steve Johnson, ground out a tough 18-12 win against the Stingrays of Shellharbour on Sunday - to get their Group Seven Rugby League season off on the right foot.
In wet conditions, it was the hosts who jumped out of the gates the quickest - showing the impact Brad and Buster Reh are having on the Flinders Field-based club.
Half Zaan Weatherall failed to convert and the hosts led 4-nil.
Just when they had their tails up, the Rays dropped the ball coming out of their own end.
Off the ensuing scrum, speedsters Jayden Harris and Kane Ball combined, as the latter opened the Eagles' account.
Five-eighth Harris failed with the boot and it was 4-all after 16 minutes.
The even ledger didn't last long, as the Rays regained the lead through Matt Murray - who dived on another McLaurin kick into the in-goal.
Weatherall again missed and the scores moved to 8-4 after 20.
The Rays' lead stretched to six when McLaurin took over the kicking duties and slotted a penalty goal.
This goal, combined with desperate goal-line defence, helped the Rays hold a 10-4 lead at half-time.
Whatever the Eagles co-coaches said to them at the break worked, as the visitors scored two tries in as many minutes after the resumption.
The first came from a swift backline play, which saw Ball put winger Jay Weaver over, before his left-side counterpart Dallas Harrison got in on the action - following a commanding run and quick hands by Tom Warner and Blake Jones.
Neither Jones nor Harris could convert from the sideline, as the Park led for the first time in the match 12-10.
Just as the match's intensity seemed to be going up another level, the fixture was paused for more than 30 minutes following a head clash between Anthony Nabbe and Weatherall - which saw both Rays players forced from the field.
During this stoppage, an off-field incident (being investigated by Group Seven) occurred between the two fanbases - which saw the ground managers remove to the majority of the fans from the venue.
New Stingrays of Shellharbour co-coach Greg ‘Buster’ Reh chats about his side’s tough 18-12 #GroupSeven#RugbyLeague loss to the Albion Park-Oak Flats Eagles.— Courtney Rhys Ward (@CortRhysWard) July 26, 2020
The Rays next face the Nowra-Bomaderry Jets. @NSWRL@mercury_sports@SCRegister@TheBarrowpic.twitter.com/WFHoZEeu8r
When the match finally resumed, with 21 minutes left on the clock, it optimised the stop-start nature of the 2020 Group Seven season.
Neither team could hold onto possession before a McLaurin penalty goal with 13 to go levelled the scores at 12-all.
After a try-saving tackle by Rays' Josh Adu on Harrison, it appeared the match was destined to end in a draw.
But with three minutes to go, Eagles recruit Ben Warner barged his way over under the sticks, to seal the two points for his side - following the conversion by Harris.
In the six-point win, the Eagles were led by Sam Clune, Ball, Tom Warner and Jack Scurr while Chanse Perham, Jake Kamire, Matt Murray and Jiye Ellis were the hosts' best.
Next week the Eagles host Berry-Shoalhaven Heads at Centenary Field while the Rays travel to the Bomaderry Sporting Complex to face the Nowra-Bomaderry Jets.