Rebels 33 Waratahs 28
Kurtley Beale pleased NSW Waratahs coach Michael Cheika in his return for the Super Rugby team, as the battle for the No.10 jersey ramped up in Albury.
Beale has made no secret of the fact five-eighth is his preferred spot but the Wallabies star faces stiff competition from incumbent Bernard Foley.
The Waratahs lost their opening pre-season trial 33-28 against Beale's former Super Rugby side Melbourne Rebels, with the match played in quarters in searing heat in Albury on Saturday.
Beale rejoined NSW this season after two disappointing years in Melbourne where he battled disciplinary and alcohol-related issues and injuries.
As well as lining up against his old teammates, Beale was playing his first game since a shoulder reconstruction last August.
"I had a few g'days from the boys at the bottom of a ruck but they were all good," Beale said of the Rebels.
"I was more nervous before the game than I'd been in a long time because of my shoulder but they made me focus a little bit more on my game."
The 25-year-old said he had "a lot of room to improve" but his shoulder came through well.
Cheika liked what he saw from Beale, who played half the match at five-eighth and then a quarter at fullback before briefly running in the centres.
Given the conditions and his long lay-off, Beale had some nice touches, combining well with Ben Volavola, who was mostly at fullback with Wallaby Israel Folau rested.
"He was pretty good," Cheika said.
"He was sharp and he made a few incisive breaks.
"I thought it was a pretty positive first run."
Beale said he felt right at home amongst the Waratahs, where he played for five years after making his senior debut in 2007.
"The guys around me have really supported me and it allows me to be myself.
"I don't want to put too much pressure on myself but they're all great guys and I've known them for a long time so they have a good understanding of me."
The game also marked the long-awaited return of Melbourne skipper Scott Higginbotham, who had off-season shoulder and hip surgery.
The Wallaby backrower was fierce in defence and also set up the try of the match when he took a quick tap off a scrum penalty and grubbered the ball through for halfback Ben Meehan to scoop up and score.
"It's been seven months since I played so I just wanted to feel my way back into it and I went alright," Higginbotham said.
Waratahs No.8 Wycliff Palu also made his return from injury, starting the third quarter and coming through the match unscathed in his first game since knee surgery nearly six months ago.