Western players were left disappointed and frustrated at full-time in their game against France but Rams captain Alex Ronayne felt it just showed the quality of rugby league in the region.
The Rams had the chance to salvage a draw after the siren at a packed Jock Colley Field on Wednesday night but halfback Chad Porter couldn't bring his kick around from the sideline as France scored a 22-20 win.
The match wasn't without drama, as one French player was sent from the field and another was sin-binned following a brawl while three Rams were binned later on by referee Simon Hartas in an ugly finish to the game.
But those scenes couldn't dampen the spirits of all involved, as the teams came together after the final siren, posing for photos and sharing a laugh.
"They just played the Junior Kangaroos and then we stuck it to them so that just shows in bush footy we're right there," Ronayne said.
"It was just an honour to be out there and to captain the boys. We just played an international team and lost by two points when we should have won so it was unreal."
FT | So close for @WesternRams!@FFRXIII wins 22-20 after a thrilling finish.— Nick Guthrie (@Nj_Guthrie) October 30, 2019
Aidan Ryan scored a second fight on the siren but Chad Porter misses the sideline conversion. What a game. Some ugly moments but fantastic spectacle at Parkes. pic.twitter.com/HbfNjksSyz
Despite creating a stack of chances throughout the game, there was never a point in which the Rams led in what was the sixth meeting between the two sides.
Four golden chances went begging in the first half at Parkes, all undone by poor handling or discipline, and the French were good enough to take advantage.
The visitors led 14-0 at the break but slowly the hosts started to improve their completion rate.
Ronayne, deservedly, got Western's first try after slicing down the right edge and while his side conceded almost immediately after, tries to prop Josh Starling and winger Aidan Ryan got the Rams back within four with seven minutes to go.
But that was where things boiled over as first Rams centre Blake Lawson was sin-binned after he and France's two-try hero Hakim Miloudi clashed and just minutes after that the brawl broke out.
Frenchman Jordan Dezaria was sent off for striking while his captain, Romain Navarrete, was joined in the bin by Rams duo Starling and Josh Merritt for their involvement.
Miloudi slotted a penalty following the incident, meaning all the pressure was on Porter after Wellington captain Ryan sliced through to score and set off Western celebrations right on full-time.
But it wasn't to be, as Porter missed from the sideline to ensure France's tour of Australia ended on a high.
The French had won only once at the World Cup 9s, were thumped by the Junior Kangaroos, and had been hampered by a number of off-field issues like captain Jason Baitieri quitting midway through the tour.
"This is the best thing we could have," man of the match Miloudi said of the win.
"The Junior Kangaroos game was a big score but we have so many young boys with us and they play with so much heart.
"The Junior Kangaroos was another level but the Western Rams played well today."
73 | TRY! And here we go!— Nick Guthrie (@Nj_Guthrie) October 30, 2019
The crowd of 3713 at Jock Colley Field is pumping as France’s lead is cut to four! Aidan Ryan goes in for the @WesternRams, kick misses and it’s 20-16. @FFRXIII officials and players are blowing up deluxe. pic.twitter.com/oCsQKok2Ae
Western coach Tim Ryan had nothing but praise for his side's commitment to the Western jersey, with it being the first time a number of players in the squad had worn the green and white.
"We haven't had a senior team for four years but they all bought into it and loved it and to see a crowd like this and be playing against an international team, it's something the boys won't forget," the coach said.
Ronayne led from the front for the Rams while Ryan was named Western's man of the match.
Hometown hero Sam Dwyer was strong when coming off the bench early and Blake Lawson, before his sin-binning, and Jake Betts were also among the hosts' best.
- FRANCE 22 (Hakim Miloudi 2, Gavin Marguerite, Arthur Romano tries; Miloudi 3 goals) defeated WESTERN RAMS 20 (Aidan Ryan 2, Josh Starling, Alex Ronayne tries; Josh Merritt 2 goals)