Riverina failed to back up a winning start to the Country Championships after finding Illawarra way too strong on Saturday.
The under 23s side got off to a perfect start when Riley Flint scored off a Jesse Corcoran kick two minutes in, but they struggled to keep pace.
Down 24-4 at half-time, the home side ran out 52-10 winners at Figtree Oval.
Coach Jody Rudd admitted to it was a steep learning curve.
"It was a tough day at the office for everyone involved but it was a good experience as well," Rudd said.
"We matched them for the first 20 minutes so or, and we certainly didn't deserve to go in down 24-4 at half-time.
"I thought we were a lot closer to them than that but a couple of crucial errors at the wrong time, giving them repeat sets on our own line, and we found it really difficult to hold them out."
Rudd believes there is plenty to build on for next season.
Especially with both halves Corcoran and Kirtis Fisher under 20.
"They have players who play at that standard week in and week out in the Illawarra competition and our guys only get exposed to that level of intensity when they go away and play in these rep games," Rudd said.
"That's is why it is a good experience for them and gives them a bit of a gauge as to where they need to be at to compete at level."
Zac Masters put in another strong performance as he looks to earn another Country jumper while captain Hayden Philp got through plenty of work.
Rudd was also impressed with the progress Albury forward Liam Wiscombe has made.
"Our pack performed really well and I think we competed physically with them to a point," he said.
"Constantly turning the ball over we got a little bit fatigued and started falling off some tackles, but our initial contact was quite good.
"We were probably just a bit clunky in attack getting the ball from the middle to our fringes."
However it wasn't all bad new for Riverina's representative teams.
Despite a 16-14 loss to Illawarra in the women's match their win over Newcastle was enough to go through to the semi-finals.
Riverina were in front for most of the game before Jillaroos representative Kezzie Apps scored her second try in the final minute.
Former Riverina representative Rachel Pearson kicked the winning conversion from close range.
The Andrew Johns Cup side also had a win to end their season.
They scored a 26-18 win over Illawarra South Coast.
However it wasn't to be in the Laurie Daley Cup with the Dragons running out 38-16 winners.