Although his side were only pipped in the final minutes of their pre-season trial against the Chiefs on Friday, Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson said a lack of polish was what cost his side in the end.
Reece Robinson scored his first try in the light blue of NSW, but the Waratahs were outclassed 17-12 by the Chiefs courtesy of a try in the dying minutes from Monty Ioane.
There were no major injury concerns to come out of the match for the Waratahs, meaning that with the return of Israel Folau and Bernard Foley next week - as well as the potential for Dave Dennis to make a comeback from ongoing concussion symptoms - the Waratahs could field their strongest side.
Gibson said he was still mixing and matching combinations but was happy to see six Wallabies stars get through 50 to 60 minutes each without any major problems.
"It was good to let them get out and have a good run against a quality opposition," Gibson said. "To concede a try at the death was disappointing, but I guess some really good things to come out of the game for us was the scrum and lineout performed really well. So I'm really pleased with things. There's a few things we need to tidy up around the back. It was a pretty good trial, plenty of mistakes and both teams trying things."
Kurtley Beale slotted into the No.10 position like a glove and was "very threatening" according to Gibson. But the coach said Foley would come back in as expected for a final trial against the Highlanders.
Gibson conceded the Waratahs lacked a bit of polish after getting themselves in favourable field position, but said he was far from worried with the regular season two weeks away.
"There's plenty of things we can improve on," Gibson said. "For two weeks in a row we've left a lot of points out there, just due to poor finishing and poor handling at the end. The pleasing thing is we're creating plenty of opportunities."
For the Waratahs it was their second run, following a 21-17 win over the Brumbies in Wagga Wagga last weekend, and they welcomed back several Wallabies into the fray, while former All Black Zac Guildford ran at fullback.
Their early play reflected that of a team who had already got a match under their belt, compared to the Chiefs, who were guilty of coughing up ball, and had an average set piece, with their lineout stuttering and their scrum pushed back at a rate of knots.
After withstanding some early pressure, the visitors opened the scoring in the sixth minute through Nick Phipps.
The hosts tied the game up right on the quarter-time break with a superb try to rugby league convert Glen Fisiiahi. The former Warriors winger, plying his trade on his familiar right flank, broke the line on halfway, before some neat changes of hands – including a round-the-back effort from Tawera Kerr-Barlow – had Fisiiahi finishing the movement.
Kerr-Barlow got creative again soon after, when another pass was flung reverse style, before he was on hand to take the spoils.
Both teams were guilty of getting on the wrong side of referee Nick Briant's whistle, but each was keen to distribute the ball wide, and when the Waratahs got it to their own league convert they reaped rewards, as Robinson – the former Broncos, Raiders and Eels flyer – showed all his gas on a 50-metre dash down the right-hand touch.
The teams went to halftime at 12-12 and then made mass changes.
The Waratahs used a squad of 27, while the Chiefs operated with 35, and ran almost an entire new XV for the second half.
Naturally, the quality of football fell away. Neither team would have been happy with how they didn't take their chances in a scoreless third quarter. The Waratahs botched a couple of cross-kicks, while the Chiefs twice fumbled the ball near the goal-line as well as at an attacking lineout.
The patchy theme continued into the final stanza, and it was only the front rowers who would have been happy with that, with plenty of scrum practice secured.
Right on fulltime the scoring drought was broken when Lalakai Foketi put Ioane over. Neither of them are in the franchise's official squad.
Chiefs 17 (Glen Fisiiahi, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Monty Ioane tries; Charlie Ngatai con) d Waratahs 12 (Nick Phipps, Reece Robinson tries; Kurtley Beale con)