Rugby: On-attack Waratahs 'a serious threat'

Waratahs coach Michael Cheika. Photo / Getty Images
Waratahs coach Michael Cheika. Photo / Getty Images

All Blacks and Crusaders star No8 Kieran Read saw enough from the NSW Waratahs in their Sydney trial to suggest they will be serious contenders in this year's Super rugby competition.

The Waratahs open their Super rugby campaign against the Queensland Reds in a week and should go to Brisbane confident, despite going down 16-14 to the Crusaders at Allianz Stadium on Thursday night in their final trial.

The home side knocked back some nine kickable penalty shots at goal against the Crusaders as new coach Michael Cheika's team stuck with their policy in the trials of not taking three-pointers.

Although they misfired a few times, the Waratahs' attacking intent was enough to bring hope to NSW diehards that a big - and exciting - 2013 is ahead of them.

"Obviously they looked after the ball really well and have some attacking players out wide," said Crusaders captain Read.

"I don't think that they stressed us as much perhaps as they could have, but certainly they've got a lot of structure there which is going to make them a pretty serious threat in the competition."

One of the attacking players Read referred to was man-of-the-match Israel Folau, who created several line breaks chiming in from fullback, and Cheika indicated the team would look to get more ball into his hands.

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder spotted some differences in the way the Cheika-coached Waratahs play the game from last year's NSW team.

"I can see what they are trying to do in the middle of the field in some of their set plays off rucks and things like that," he said.

"They're looking to hit the midfield with some inside passes to restress the inside defenders. They are playing slightly different patterns definitely."

The Waratahs scored two tries to one, the Crusaders getting home on the back of penalty goals.

Cheika's side looked rusty in the opening 40 minutes and went to the break down 13-0.

They fought back with two converted tries to forwards Lopeti Timani and Paddy Ryan, both five-pointers coming off the back of patient build-ups.

Cheika praised rookie five-eighths Ben Volavola for his performance and admitted "he might have to be" ready to face Queensland next week with Berrick Barnes (knee) and Bernard Foley (ankle) rated only 50-50 chances of being fit.

The Waratahs coach admitted Volavola, who played most of his club rugby with Southern Districts at fullback last year, was still adjusting to being a playmaker.

"We're converting him into that role. The regularity of his distribution needs to improve but we knew that before," Cheika said. "I don't know what the numbers are like but he's probably making triple the passes that he'd normally make in a game."

- AAP


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