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Waratahs coach Michael Cheika stuck with his policy for the trials of not taking three-pointers as they looked to get their attack fine-tuned ahead of their Super Rugby opener against Queensland on Saturday week.
Young five-eighth Ben Volavola had an indifferent night at the office for the Waratahs but showed glimpses of class and enough to please Cheika with playmakers Berrick Barnes and Bernard Foley in doubt for the Reds' clash.
Israel Folau was named man of the match as the star fullback made the most of his limited opportunities with several line breaks for the hosts who scored two tries to one.
Folau brought the small crowd to their feet every time he chimed into the backline and showed enough to suggest he's in for a big year.
The Waratahs fought back well in the second half after trailing 13-0 at halftime.
Brendan McKibbin's injection at halfback for Grayson Heart in the 27th minute was pivotal for the Waratahs with the classy No.9 giving his side some much-needed direction.
NSW scored their first points of the night when back-rower Lopeti Timani charged onto a pass from McKibbin close the line with the big Tongan barging his way over on 60 minutes.
McKibbin slotted the goal from the sideline to make it 13-7.
The Waratahs hit the lead for the first time about seven minutes later when replacement hooker Luke Holmes scored after a rolling maul from a lineout close to the Crusaders' line with Brendan McKibbin kicked the conversion to make it 14-13.
The Crusaders hit back with a penalty goal to Tom Taylor to make it 16-14 much to the disapproval of the enthusiastic small crowd.
The first half of the match which was split into 20 minute periods didn't reach any great heights with the Crusaders scoring a try through prop Pa'ea Fununu off a rolling maul while the other points came from a conversion and penalty goal to star No.10 Dan Carter while replacement five-eighth Tom Taylor slotted kicked the first of his two penalties in the first half.
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.
"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."
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder said the trial was a typical scrappy affair for this time of the year.
"These pre-season games are all like this. We were pretty disjointed and pretty messy and for the last two weeks we've just been doing the same sort of thing. You just try and play with some structure, try some moves," he said.
"There's some things that need tweaking but nothing major, everything's in place."
Blackadder was impressed by Folau.
Blackadder confirmed that Carter left the field with a corked knee but said the injury was nothing serious.