Avondale coach Joe Aiono has praised his players for adapting on the run after the Wombats opened their premiership defence with a come-from-behind victory on Saturday.
The Illawarra Rugby Union season kicked off with a grand final rematch, Shamrocks looking to make amends for their defeat in last year's decider.
The visitors were on track to achieve that goal, leading 34-24 with less than 20 minutes to play, before Avondale gained the ascendancy in a topsy-turvy affair.
Three tries to close out the game saw the Wombats run out 45-34 winners and Aiono was thrilled his side was able to open the shortened season with a crucial victory.
"We never gave up," Aiono said. "The boys never gave up.
"We were under the pump, but the boys stuck to our structures and we played for the full 80 minutes. These guys have been together for a few years now and they know it's an 80 minute game, you can't relax.
"In the half-time chat I told them we had to dig deep in the second half, Shamrocks were going to come back stronger and faster, which they did with some quick tries.
"We were under the pump and the boys had to fix those little minor things on the field, which was pleasing to see. It's the first game, everything doesn't go according to plan, so it was great to get the win."
The match was an exciting affair, with the lead changing multiple times and both sides enjoying periods of dominance.
While there was some outstanding attacking rugby on show, the 79 points scored was also a sign of some less than stellar defence.
Aiono attributed this to the disrupted preparation all teams have endured throughout the first half of the year.
Avondale have been able to assemble a squad largely similar to the one that took out last year's competition, however many have only returned to training in the past couple of weeks.
"The defence does need to improve, but there were some tired guys out there and when there are, there'll be holes appearing everywhere," Aiono said.
"It's something to work on next week and fitness is a major part of that.
"Shamrocks being up 10 points with 20 minutes to go, I was wondering whether I should use the bench. I didn't make any changes except for a couple of injuries, I wanted the guys to stay on the paddock and play as much footy as we can."
In Saturday's other matches, Vikings score with just two minutes on the clock to edge Shoalhaven 17-12 and Tech Tahs claimed a comprehensive 41-12 win over Camden.
Campbelltown defeated Kiama 33-22 in the final game of the round.
The matches marked the start of a turbulent season, with the competition's status evolving as the coronavirus situation has developed.
With two teams withdrawing in recent weeks, the current draw features a nine-round competition with no finals.
There are calls, however, for a seven-round season with two weeks of finals to be played instead.
The matter will be discussed at Monday night's Illawarra Rugby board meeting and Aiono threw his support behind the suggestion.
"That would be fair and something to play for, not just first past the post, that's EPL.
"Whatever the format they decide, I've said to the boys, if we're playing, we put in a team and we go and win that. We're not turning up to make numbers."