Classy centre Neil Feather proved the difference for Army, scoring 16 points and throwing the final pass for another try as the Diggers outlasted Air Force 24-22 at Suncorp Stadium on Friday.
In the main curtain-raiser to the Bundaberg Rum Trans Tasman Test, Feather looked a step ahead of everyone as he out-paced and out-witted the opposition.
The Townsville Foley Shield representative sprinted into wide space in just the seventh minute for his first try, then broke a 6-all deadlock by setting up outside man Tim Johnson seconds before halftime.
When play resumed in the often heated encounter, Feather was again on fire, going across with a run up the centre of the park in the 49th minute.
His faultless display was furthered by a 100 per cent success rate with the boot, slotting over four goals for the evening.
In the wash-up it was only goal-kicks which separated the two sides, although realistically Air Force was consigned to chasing all night.
Replacement Jeremy Barnes added interest to the contest by scoring two tries of his own.
His second effort, with four minutes remaining, put the score at 24-16 before former Toowoomba Clydesdale Michael Green hit the upright with his conversion attempt.
It was not a befitting fate for Green, who otherwise gave superb service to the Air Force. He proved so by scoring the final try of the game with 25 seconds left, then converting it for a narrow two-point loss.
On a losing side forwards Anthony Hopkin and Jason Akarana tried hard until the very end, while aside from Feather, five-eighth Mick Green was the other standout for Army.
Brawling pair Joel Foster (Army) and Matthew Griffiths (Air Force) both spent time in the sin bin, with Griffiths involved in several other skirmishes over the course of the match.
AUSTRALIAN ARMY 24 (Neil Feather 2, Tim Johnson, Mick Green tries; Neil Feather 4 goals) d ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE 22 (Jeremy Barnes 2, Michael Green, Darryl West tries; Michael Green 3 goals) at Suncorp Stadium.