We showed we could shake it up with attack
The Waratahs will go into next week's Super Rugby opener against the Reds with a good hit out under their belts, after a tough final trial match against the Crusaders.
Led for the first time by new skipper Dave Dennis, the Aussies outscored their New Zealand counterparts by two tries to one before eventually losing out 14-16 to a late Tom Taylor penalty.
With the majority of NSW's 12 Wallabies playing their first game of the season, coach Michael Cheika admitted there was plenty of room for improvement, but said he was happy with the team's overall performance.
"For a lot of players it was their first run out for the season, they were blowing pretty hard early," Cheika said.
"But the things I wanted to see in the background were getting there, you could see the team starting to get there in the second half, playing with the new shape.
"A lot of the things we want to work on were in there.
"We were very clear today [Thursday] about how we want to play and that's really important.
"We showed we could shake it up with attack and I think we showed some good defensive parts as well to restrict a team like the Crusaders to just the one driving maul try."
Although Cheika wasn't pleased with the amount of dropped ball, overall he was happy with the performance and defended the choice not to take penalty shots - they turned down nine kickable penalties.
"I thought we weren't too bad considering we had about probably nine or 10 guys in their first game at the start of the game, so they were blowing like crazy from the start which I could tell.
"We knew what we were trying to do which is good. I like that.
"One of the big things we want to do is be very clear about how we want to play and just keep playing like that.
"We want to win, but I think you see by the way that we decided to take penalty kicks for goal that we understand the balance of what we want to get out of practice matches as well."
With eight minutes remaining, a second Taylor sealed the victory for the Crusaders, but captain Dennis was full of praise for the team after the match.
"We feel good and we're enjoying playing," Dennis said.
"There was a bit of general fatigue near the end, but that's to be expected and we should be alright for the Reds. The last pass let us down but we got two good tries which was positive.
"We'll carry that momentum on. We've got a bit of a longer layoff now before the Reds but that break gives us a bit longer to work on the things we have to work on."
Despite limited possession, the Crusaders got out to a 10-0 lead, thanks to a Dan Carter penalty and a close-range converted try from prop Pa'ea Fanunu, scored with 24 minutes on the clock.
Enjoying plenty of ball, the Waratahs' backline showed some nice touches, with winger Tom Kingston and fullback Israel Folau, voted Man of the Match, looking dangerous on the run.
And with the new combinations starting to gel, NSW's first scoring chance came on quarter time thanks to a nice blindside break from Drew Mitchell, a blood replacement for Kingston, set up by a driven line-out.
Although they failed to find the tryline, the Waratahs managed to successfully contain the Crusaders' midfield, who created just one real scoring chance through a break from fullback Israel Dagg, who was hauled down 10m short by speedster Kingston.
A Taylor penalty gave the visitors a 13-0 lead at the break but the home side started the second period strongly, threatening the Crusaders' line on several occasions, with big runners Wycliff Palu and Sita Timani among a number to make good yards.
It took 20 minutes before they finally found a way through, with Lopeti Timani battering his way over in the right hand corner. Brendan McKibbin's conversion closed the gap to six points before a second converted try, this time from replacement prop Paddy Ryan, put the home side ahead for the first time after 68 minutes.
With eight minutes remaining, a second Taylor sealed the victory for the Crusaders.
After a bye this weekend in Round One, the Waratahs will now play the Reds next Saturday in Brisbane, before hosting the Rebels in Sydney on Friday, March 1.
For the Waratahs:
Tries: Timani, Ryan
Cons: McKibbin 2
For the Crusaders:
Pens: Carter, T Taylor 2
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Tom Carter, 11 Tom Kingston, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Grayson Hart, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 David Hickey, 6 Dave Dennis (captain), 5 Mitchell Chapman, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements - from: Luke Holmes, John Ulugia, Paddy Ryan, Jeremy Tilse, Brendan McKibbin, James Hilgendorf, Cam Crawford, Michael Hodge, Drew Mitchell, Michael Hooper, Jed Holloway, Lopeti Timani, Kane Douglas, Greg Peterson
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Adam Whitelock, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Johnny McNicholl, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements - from: Codie Taylor, Joe Moody, Dominic Bird, Luke Whitelock, Willi Heinz, Tom Taylor, Tom Marshall, Telusa Veianu, Shane Christie, Tom Donnelly, Corey Flynn.
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Ian Smith (Australia), Michael Hogan (Australia)