“I’m chuffed with where we’re sitting and how we’re going.”
NSW skipper Jake Gordon added: “It was really tough. I was really happy with the way we fought back there. It wasn’t pretty.”
The Waratahs hit the front for the first time in the 61st minute courtesy of some outstanding offloads finished off by a Pietsch five-pointer down the left wing.
This is a team playing with confidence under Coleman and their general catch-pass skills – particularly in the forwards – have gone up a notch on last year.
“It’s such a helpful thing when you can get scrum penalties and dominance like we did,” Coleman said.
Coleman warned this week that the challenge of getting up for the Moana match would be far greater than tackling the Crusaders.
It’s much easier when 10,000 fans – mostly Waratahs supporters – are crammed into Leichhardt Oval. Traveling has never been the Waratahs’ strong suit, but they will be mighty pleased at holding out a gritty, physical Moana side who could have easily pinched their second win of the season.
While the crowd wasn’t superb at Mt Smart Stadium, Moana used it to their advantage by kicking an early penalty before tries from Abraham Pole and Levi Aumua gave the home team a 17-0 lead after 22 minutes.
Enter Izaia Perese. The Waratahs center is putting forward an irrefutable case to Wallabies coach Dave Rennie for selection against England in July after another terrific performance, which included a try in the 28th minute. He ran 104 metres and beat seven defenders.
Sure, Perese knocked on a couple of times in the first half, but his ability to get over the advantage line and bump off defenders is a real point of difference. The 24-year-old does it game after game.
When hooker Dave Porecki burrowed over the line from close range, the Waratahs had reduced the deficit to three points heading into the sheds.
The Waratahs thought they had hit the lead after the break with a Perese kick and regather finished off by Pietsch before a late TMO call reversed the try.
As far as no-tries go, this was particularly cruel for the Waratahs who deserved a five-pointer for their audacity within their own half.
Former Waratahs prop Sekope Kepu put in a solid 50-minute shift, while Ben Donaldson replaced No.10 Tane Edmed with half an hour to go and was steady.