The defiant NSW Waratahs maintain they boast a “championship-winning” roster despite suffering yet another historic Super Rugby AU defeat.

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Reeling from record losses to the Queensland Reds and Brumbies to start their 2021 campaign, the Waratahs on Friday night handed the Western Force their first Super Rugby victory since being booted out of the competition in 2017.

The 20-16 loss, after leading 13-0 midway through the first half, has intensified the pressure on besieged coach Rob Penney.

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But rather than accept Penney has been dealt a cruel hand, given the exodus of some 1800 caps in Super Rugby experience over the last two years, the Baby Tahs staggeringly believe they can still make the finals – and possibly even win the title.

“We have had a lot of players leave over the last couple of years but we feel we have the talent to be a championship-winning side,” said 21-year-old flyhalf Will Harrison.

“The mood is disappointing. We wanted to show how proud we are to play for NSW.

“We went out there to win but we didn’t. We’ve just got to turn up on Monday and be better.

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“It’s definitely not a s*** sandwich (for Penney). There’s a really good vibe around the boys.

“It’s been a tough start but we’ve got to bounce back and we can.

“We’ve got to be better individually and as a collective.”

Halfback Jack Grant also took exception to suggestions the developing Waratahs line-up couldn’t compete with the Brumbies and Reds, who even Penney conceded were a class above at present.

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“He’s been given what he’s been given,” Grant said of Penney’s inexperienced playing personnel.

“He’s doing the most he can with what he’s got.

“We are improving. From the last two weeks to now, we are improving.”

Penney was asked if his side’s four-point loss, after they surrendered 61-10 to the Brumbies and 41-7 to the Reds, meant the Waratahs were improving enough to show he remained the best coach for the rebuilding process.

“I don’t know. You’ll answer that for us,” he said following the Force’s first win in 10 matches since being reinstated to domestic Super Rugby last year.

“You can dissect the minutia of the whole performance. We made a few too many errors, they made a few less. There’s the result.

“But there’s positives we can take.”

In Penney’s defence, the former Munster mentor inherited a Waratahs team in obvious decline after taking over from his New Zealand compatriot Daryl Gibson last year.

Then he lost Wallabies captain Michael Hooper to Japan, the Waratahs’ 2020 skipper Rob Simmons to London Irish and several others to better overseas offers after the pandemic wrought financial havoc on Australian rugby.

No coach could be expected to succeed with such slim pickings.

But, as more than one NSW coach has learned over the years, no fans are more fickle than the Waratahs faithful, leaving Penny precariously placed just three rounds into the new season.

Super Rugby Aotearoa is available to watch live and on-demand on RugbyPass for subscribers in the UK, Ireland, France, Singapore and many more territories across the world who hold a tournament pass.

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