Tom Taylor's NPC season stalls after eye injury
At least Tom Taylor won't require an operation on his fractured eye socket.
Canterbury coach Scott Robertson yesterday tempered fears that Taylor's National Provincial Championship season had expired after just 52 minutes, confirming the utility back doesn't need surgery to repair the facial injury he suffered in a tackle during Saturday night's 48-9 rout over Auckland at AMI Stadium.
Taylor, who required assistance to walk off the paddock, was immediately taken to hospital for a scan which revealed a 3mm fracture below the right eye.
He will consult a specialist early this week to determine how long the injury will take to heal.
Now for the bad news: It may not just be the agony of the damaged eye socket that made Taylor feel so miserable yesterday; after a frustrating season with the Crusaders, in which he was unable to lock down a regular starting position and subsequently appeared to lose his confidence, he revelled in the way Canterbury were able to execute their entertaining game plan and this would have been the perfect way for him to re-launch his season.
It was Taylor's spectacular run from inside his own half that created Johnny McNicholl's first try and he didn't miss any kicks at goal, succeeding with four conversions and two penalties.
Watching him running at full pace was a reminder why he was deemed good enough to earn two test caps for the All Blacks last year but now he faces a nervous wait to see if he can return to the NPC in time to make a late bid for the end of season tour.
One thing is certain: There is no chance of Robertson having Taylor back in the short-term, which means he is going to have to find a new second five-eighth for this Friday night's match against Waikato in Hamilton.
That candidate is likely to be Rob Thompson, who substituted for the injured Taylor.
Ryan Crotty may be required to stay with the All Blacks.
Robertson must have also felt vindicated by selecting Willi Heinz as his captain over other experienced veterans such as Highlanders co-captain Nasi Manu and Crotty, who led the Crusaders when Kieran Read and Richie McCaw were injured.
Heinz copped criticism for his loose kicks when the Crusaders lost the Super Rugby grand final to the Waratahs earlier this month and on Saturday night he played like a man who wanted to cast out some demons.
Late in the game the halfback brazenly ran the ball from inside his own in-goal and also took the quick penalty tap that led to Patrick Osborne's try on the fulltime buzzer.
"That gets you out of your seat, that makes you proud as a coaching group because you know that [the team] is utterly ruthless," Robertson said. "And it makes you think ‘yeah we made a good decision for him being captain'. It was the right one."
The compressed format of the NPC means Robertson must carefully manage his squad but given his side's clinical performance, and the way newcomers such as loosehead prop Alex Hodgman and lock Scott Barrett flourished, he may be reluctant to start rotating his selections for the assignment against Waikato.