NSW Waratahs coach Ewen McKenzie was full of praise for his team after their five-point victory over the Western Force on Saturday night.
Coming into the game, McKenzie talked of the importance of maintaining possession and making the Force tackle more than they were used to – but it did not transpire that way.
Despite not going to plan, the Tahs were still able to score the only two tries of the match to win 17-12 and move into the top four at the expense of the Force.
"It was a courageous performance to play so much without the ball," said McKenzie.
"We knew before the game that the Force were really good at moving the ball around, keeping it alive and keeping continuity in the game, but also that it perhaps hadn’t translated to points for them.
"We had to hang around in defence and did a lot more of it than we were hoping to, but the guys were terrific.
"The performance on the line in the last 30 seconds typified that courage and commitment, which is what helps you climb the ladder in this competition.
"We never came here with the intention of defending for 80 minutes, but sometimes that’s the way it pans out.
"We only had three or four opportunities in attack and took points on two of those, so our conversion rate was pretty good."
NSW lost two key players in Phil Waugh (knee) and Tom Carter, who departed after taking a big hit, but McKenzie was delighted with how his reserves stepped up.
"Our two centres that finished the second half weren’t even in the team last week, so we adapted well," he said.
"We had some more opportunities to score and didn’t make a mistake, but just didn’t make the pass.
"You have to give the Force some credit for putting a lot of pressure on us, but we were more than equal to the task.
"We gave away a couple of loose and uncharacteristic penalties in the first half, which was poor discipline by us and it kept them in the contest. We also kicked a couple out on the full, which didn’t help."
Lote Tuqiri was named man of the match yet again at Subiaco Oval, and McKenzie was delighted with not only his performance, but also his leadership development.
"I won’t tell Lote about his games here or else the Force might try to sign him up," he said.
"He might like the big open spaces, I’m not sure. It was important that he played well for us because everyone else in the team was young and he showed a lot of leadership.
"Not only in his running game, but in his talk during the week, pre-game and during the game. He’s had his detractors over the years, but he’s a terrific asset for us."