Wynne Gray on sport

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Cheika's attack minded Tahs cantering home

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Israel Folau scores against the Highlanders. Photo /Getty Images
Israel Folau scores against the Highlanders. Photo /Getty Images

The Waratahs are in the home straight and cantering to the Super 15 tape.

Shut down the odds, book yourself a seat at the 83,500 capacity ANZ Stadium and watch history unfold as the Waratahs ride their rapturous form to their first Super rugby title. The rah rahs are right behind the Tahs.

Sydney is a ferocious sporting market where codes are always looking to grab better shares of the television and public attention and the Tahs are doing their best to hang on to the NRL, ARL and NFL codes.

Changes have come under the command of testy coach Michael Cheika and he has framed a style which is both victorious and fan-friendly in contrast to the dry patterns used by the Brumbies.

The Tahs have power across the park, they have clever partnerships and men on the bench who bring impact, defensive strengths and attacking ideas which are fresh and lethal.

It helps Cheika that he has a squad full of Wallabies who bring a blend of adventure and hard yakka and know their playoff route will be at home after their guaranteed top finish in pool play.

The Tahs have been full of Wallabies before but are still without a title after losing twice to the Crusaders in 2005 and 2008. Perhaps some of that winning education is coming from red 'n' black men Daryl Gibson and Andrew Mehrtens who are on the coaching staff.

Some of it is certainly coming from newer players who have given the squad different dimensions.

Israel Folau is the obvious focus with his 12 tries this season showing the threat he poses from fullback in set and broken play. At the weekend the Highlanders knew Folau would attack from a scrum near their line but that knowledge did not help the defenders.

He timed his run expertly and an inside pass from Bernard Foley opened up room for the fullback to score. Foley's timing was decisive and he has also ramped up his general all-round work and goalkicking this season with 199 points in a year when he also broke through as the Wallabies starting five-eighths against France.

At the other end of the physical scale is Will Skelton, the massive lock whose power and deft skills have brought another dimension to the Tahs.

He has been used as a starter and a substitute, depending on the challenge, but usually has created some impact to match his frame.

- NZ Herald

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