The new-look Waratahs were searching for positives after they went down 17-25 to the Reds in their opening Super Rugby match of the season.
After letting the Reds get out to an early 17-3 lead, two quick tries from debutants Israel Folau and Ben Volavola levelled the scores in the second period, setting up a dramatic ending to the Templeton Cup clash.
Although a third try, on 74 minutes, sealed it for the Reds, Waratahs captain Dave Dennis praised the side's character and ambition.
However, he also admitted that execution let them down in their first competitive match of the season.
"We worked hard to get ourselves back in the game, but you just can't give a team like the Reds that much possession," the skipper said.
"It was positive that we put ourselves in the position to score tries but we just weren't finishing them off.
"It's our first game but we can't let that slip, it's disappointing."
Of his side's much improved second half performance, Dennis said: "As soon as we went back to how we wanted to play, we scored two good tries. We held on to the ball and made some good gains.
"We've just got to know when to push that pass and when to hold on to it. We created opportunities, we've just got to hold on to the ball better."
Although there were a few first-round nerves on show, there was also plenty of ambition and attacking rugby. The NSW halves combination of Brendan McKibbin and Bernard Foley showed plenty of promise, with Foley's width of pass opening up the visitors' wide game.
The Waratahs will now host the Rebels in Sydney next Friday.
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