With just three matches remaining, qualifying for the Investec Super Rugby Finals Series will be a challenge for the Crusaders after the defending champion Waratahs won 33-22 in Sydney.  To view the match highlights click here.

Looking at the attacking numbers after the match one would assume the contest was close throughout, but NSW took a 25-8 lead deep into the second half and it took desperation from the Crusaders to get back into the game.

The bigger Waratahs forwards were causing issues, a familiar theme for a Crusaders team that has not been able to create constant physical dominance this year.

Late tries to Richie McCaw and Matt Todd set up a grandstand finish, but in the end Bernard Foley, fast becoming a nemesis for the Crusaders, showed impressive urgency to score the closing try.

The match opened in the best possible fashion for the seven-time winners, with a Taqele Naiyaravoro mistake allowing the hosts to attack the Waratahs line early.

When Nemani Nadolo crossed with time barely up on the clock, Michael Hooper and his troops stirred to life and got their preferred big ball carriers into the thick of the action.

There was plenty of feeling in the match, with Totu Latu sent to the bin after Sam Whitelock was tackled heavily.

Yet with championship poise, the Tahs were the ones who scored points a man down.

A little like the Crusaders would have done numerous times in the past.

Rob Horne crossed for five points with Colin Slade making an uncharacteristic error, and Michael Cheika’s men were in control with a 17-8 lead at halftime.

Foley added another penalty after the break before Naiyaravoro added his second and the Crusaders were staring down the barrel of a heavy loss.

With the likes of Hooper, Will Skelton and Wycliff Palu constantly bending the Crusaders line, it took the visitor’s marquee operators to breath life back into the 2014 grand final rematch.

Carter ran a nice move off a scrum, feeding Nemani Nadolo who was hanging off the shoulder of All Black for most of the evening, and impressive support from none other than New Zealand skipper Richie McCaw brought his team back into the clash.

Todd’s score was a little more desperate, where backs imitated forwards and flew into the drive to push the heaving red and black mass over.

Will Skelton remained part of proceedings despite some of his tackles coming under scrutiny, but McCaw was not so lucky when deemed to be infringing one to many times in the Waratahs 22 with ten minutes remaining.

With seconds remaining Foley pounced on the loose pill to not only deny the Crusaders a win, but ensure that the most successful team in Investec Super Rugby history departed Sydney with zero competition points.

The Crusaders are not out of final's reckoning but will now need multiple results to go their way.

Final Score Waratahs 32 (17) Crusaders 22 (8) 

Scorers

Waratahs 
Tries - T.Naiyaravoro 2 , R.Horne, B.Foley
Pen - B.Foley 2
Con - B.Foley 3
Cards -Tolu Latu (17th min yellow),

Crusaders
Tries - N.Nadolo, R.McCaw, M.Todd
Pen - D.Carter
Con - D.Carter 2
Cards -R.McCaw (70th min yellow)

Match Officials
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant Ref 1:James Leckie
Assistant Ref 2:Michael Hogan
TMO : Peter Marshall

Teams

Waratahs

1.Benn Robinson , 2.Tolu Latu,3.Sekope Kepu,4.Will Skelton,5.David Dennis (C),6.Stephen Hoiles,7.Michael Hooper (VC),8.Wycliff Palu,9.Nick Phipps,10.Bernard Foley,11.Rob Horne,12.Kurtley Beale,13.Adam Ashley-Cooper,14.Taqele Naiyaravoro,15.Israel Folau (VC)

Replacements:16. Hugh Roach,17. Jeremy Tilse,18. Paddy Ryan,19. Mitchell Chapman,20. Jack Dempsey,21.Pat McCutcheon ,22. Brendan McKibbin, 23.Matt Carraro, 

Crusaders

1. Wyatt Crockett , 2. Ben Funnell 3. Owen Franks , 4. Luke Romano , 5. Sam Whitelock , 6. Jordan Taufua ,7. Richie McCaw , 8. Kieran Read (c) , 9. Mitchell Drummond , 10. Colin Slade , 11. Nemani Nadolo , 12. Dan Carter , 13. Ryan Crotty ,14. Nafi Tuitavake , 15. Tom Taylor

Replacements : 16. Codie Taylor , 17. Joe Moody , 18. Nepo Laulala , 19. Jimmy Tupou , 20. Matt Todd , 21. Andy Ellis , 22. Israel Dagg (withdrawal due to injury in warm up), 23. Jone Macilai