Three tries to one gave the Waratahs a nervous victory over the Rebels in the Sydney rain on Saturday, sneaking home by 18-16.
The Waratahs looked more than comfortable after the first half but the Rebels shored up their discipline and defended brilliantly after the break to pile on the pressure through the boot of Jack Debreczeni.
Rob Horne's try was ultimately the difference on the scoreboard as Bernard Foley's struggles off the kicking tee, with four misses, nearly cost his side.
Both teams joined together as part of a beautiful ceremony to mark ANZAC day before kickoff, with the crowd at ANZ Stadium in fine voice for the anthems and in perfect silence during the rendition of the Last Post.
Bernard Foley's misses off the tee meant that the Waratahs only lead 13-3 at the interval after an inconsistent if not promising first half.
Elements of their play and their ambition early on were both excellent. Jacques Potgieter looked back to his best form with plenty of big carries and tackles as the Springbok imposed himself physically on the opposition.
That forward power was the key for the first try – as the Waratahs catch and drive worked well to put over their captain Michael Hooper for the opening score.
Hooper will have taken note of David Pocock's hat-trick of rolling maul tries in the Brumbies win over the Highlanders and responded with a strong all-round performance in Sydney.
A penalty from Foley, his only successful attempt from four first-half kicks, stretched the home side's advantage as the Rebels just couldn't find a way into the contest.
Blessed with so many threats, the Waratahs were able to use decoy runners such as Will Skelton and Israel Folau to good effect, especially with the try for Adam Ashley-Cooper.
The veteran Wallaby did well to glide over after Michael Hooper's break, when the Rebels tacklers had been drawn to other runners, as the Waratahs made it 13-0 with a super move, one of their best of the year.
Only by controlling their indiscipline would the Rebels have any hope of a comeback after Jack Debreczeni added a penalty for the visitors' first points just before half-time.
Some wild passing from the Waratahs let down their attack at the start of the second half as Debreczeni attempted to knock over a second long-range from out wide and succeeded to make it 13-6.
The Rebels noticeably tightened up their defence with replacement Jordy Reid making a pair of crucial turnovers at the breakdown, as the Waratahs looked tired going through the phases.
Nervous faces on the Waratahs bench eluded to the Rebels growing dominance in the match as they thrived off the momentum.
Debreczeni added another excellent penalty to cut the deficit to four points before the Waratahs hit back with a try from Rob Horne.
The Wallaby back was on the end of the line as the Waratahs put it through the hands, with Horne finishing well in the corner under real pressure from three tacklers with the television match official confirming the score.
Conditions took a turn for the worse as the rain began to pour to make conditions and lineouts tricky affairs, as Rebels hooker Pat Leafa continued to struggle with his lineout throws.
Searching for a try bonus point to keep pace with the Brumbies the Waratahs pressed on against an aggressive Rebels defence.
Suddenly a try from Bryce Hegarty changed the whole dynamic of the final few minutes, after Mitch Inman's break put the Rebels on the attack. Debreczeni's conversion, an outstanding strike from on the touchline, made it 18-16 with only a few minutes to go as the visitors had a sniff of the win.
High tension in the final stages ended with the Rebels having a scrum after the hooter on halfway, with the way Debreczeni was kicking giving the Waratahs a real scare if the Rebels could pick up a penalty.
A frantic final passage ensued as the Rebels desperately looked for a breakthrough but they came up short as the Waratahs clung on.
Tries: Hooper, Ashley-Cooper, Horne
Pens: Debreczeni 3
Yellow Card: Naivalu
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Peter Betham, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Dave Dennis (c), 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Jacques Potgieter, 5 Mitch Chapman, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Wycliff Palu, 20 Stephen Hoiles, 21 Brendan McKibbin, 22 Matt Carraro, 23 Taqele Naiyaravoro.
Rebels: 15 Mike Harris, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Sefanaia Naivalu, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Nic Stirzaker, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Cadeyrn Neville, 3 Paul Alo-Emile, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Tom Sexton, 17 Cruze Ah-Nau, 18 Tim Metcher, 19 Sam Jeffries, 20 Colby Fainga’a, 21 Luke Burgess, 22 Jordy Reid, 23 Bryce Hegarty.
Referee: Rohan Hoffman (Australia)
Assistant Referees: James Leckie (Australia), Ed Martin (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)