The Waratahs knew that if they were to break the Crusaders in the Super Rugby final that one of the vital battles they must dominate would be between the back rows.
And against the credentialled Kiwi triumvirate of blindside flanker Richie McCaw, openside Matt Todd and No. 8 and captain Kieran Read the task was never going to be easy.
Nor would it ever be a battle judged as won until the game was over, despite the pace of the Waratahs game and the doggedness and impact of their respective combination of Stephen Hoiles, Michael Hooper and Wycliff Palu.
Neither were innocent of errors or ill-discipline – such is the rabid nature of their roles and in a game as big as a title-decider.
The Waratahs got the upper hand early and the home side still had the advantage. But the Crusaders pack was never going to give in – as shown around the hour mark when they began flooding the breakdown.
And as they pressed on, forcing NSW to give away penalties - and also exposed the home side's Achilles heel, the line-out - it all could have gone so horribly wrong for the Waratahs.
Sure enough, it was not just skill and intent that would be crucial, but also fitness honed over an off-season of brutal training and 17 matches.
With the score 30-29 in the Waratahs' favour with seven minutes to go, both back rows knew that through the positive risk of their game one error could win or lose them the title.
And how close it came for the Waratahs when with five minutes to go Mitchell Chapman - on for Hoiles - and reserve hooker Tolu Latu were pinged for offside with the penalty shifting the score once more in the Crusaders’ favour, 32-30.
However, as befits classic rugby, it was far from over. For after the 79th minute when McCaw was penalised for joining the ruck from the side, Foley’s penalty kick put the Waratahs back in front 33-32 and only a few seconds from triumph.
But the first warning bells of a Crusaders resurgence like the one the Tahs fended off sounded loud and clear after 30 minutes for Hoiles, Hooper and Palu (despite his time off for a head knock).
It came when the Crusaders were down 17-10 and snapped out of their slumber to find their groove in counter-rucking and contest for the ball.
When the Crusaders were stuck in the headlights early, the Waratahs back row continued to seize the opportunity as they scrambled and fought for ball, and got themselves right into the pace of the attack with some greater interplay.
The Crusaders, meanwhile, were left with no option but to try and slow the ball down.
A telling point came 10 minutes in when Read was seen laying down the law to McCaw and inside-centre Dan Carter – who would go off after 30 minutes with a corked thigh - before Waratahs five-eighth Bernard Foley kicked a penalty to put NSW 11-0 up.
Fittingly, the first sign of the Crusaders making any resurgence came about 10 minutes later when Crusaders five-eighth Colin Slade ran from deep in their half, found space and among the five players in support were Read and Todd in full stride.
Read took the pass, unleashed his deceptive speed, then passed wide to his right to Todd who ran through to score and leave the Crusaders only seven points down after Carter’s conversion attempt flew between the posts.
It heralded the start of a Crusaders fightback, but against an equally as mighty Waratahs it was doomed.