ACT Brumbies veteran Saia Fainga'a returned to where it all began on Saturday in a move he hopes will lead him back to Wallaby gold.
Fainga'a ran out with the Queanbeyan Whites for the first in a decade but it was no fairytale return at David Campese Oval as Uni-Norths winger Sam Irwin sunk the home side 36-35 with an after-the-siren penalty.
Fainga'a marked his return from injury with a second-half try and the 30-year-old hooker looked strong in his first game since the Brumbies loss against the Melbourne Rebels last month.
"It was exciting and good to get out there and put the white jersey on again, just mucking around with the boys and enjoying it was great because you kind of miss that playing Super Rugby with it being so intense," Fainga'a said.
"My last game here was against Vikings in a trial game in 2007 so it was a long time ago and you kind of forget how good the crowd is and what it means to play at home."
Fainga'a is locked in a battle with the ageless Josh Mann Rae and Robbie Abel for the Brumbies starting rake spot and hasn't given up on adding to his 36 Wallabies caps.
"For me it's about putting my best foot forward for the Brumbies and making sure I'm always up for selection but it's been a long season and I haven't been able to do that. But I think I'm now pushing my case and slowing coming back and getting that rugby fitness," Fainga'a said.
"Everyone has aspirations to play Wallabies but at the moment I'm focused first and foremost playing for the Brumbies and making sure I start and getting the Brumbies back to winning ways.”
Uni-Norths secured its first win of the season in dramatic circumstances as both teams produced some brilliant attacking rugby in an eight-try shoot-out.
The Whites' faithful thought they were home when ice-man Angus Le Lievre coolly slotted a 42m penalty for the lead with just four minutes remaining, but the Owls weren't done.
The visitors were gifted a dubious offside penalty at the death and up stepped Irwin from 37m out to boot Uni-Norths to a memorable victory. Post match Queanbeyan coach Adam Fahey was left seething with the final penalty decision.