Broken arm shatters Scott Waldrom's dreams
GLENN MCLEAN AT TOLL STADIUM
Outstanding Taranaki openside flanker Scott Waldrom is gone for the season after breaking his arm against Northland.
The 32-year-old will see a specialist this week to ascertain if he needs a plate inserted into his forearm after it was broken midway through the second half at Toll Stadium.
He played on for about five minutes before coming off.
Just where his career heads from here is unknown. Unwanted by any Super Rugby franchise at present, it is unclear if he will continue to play in New Zealand or see out his career overseas.
He was desperate to finish off the season well for Taranaki and try to force his way into the New Zealand Maori side for their end-of-year tour to the United Kingdom.
That's off the agenda now and leaves Taranaki coach Colin Cooper with a decision whether to bring in another specialist No 7 to back up Chris Walker who will take over from Waldrom.
Former Canterbury flanker Berny Hall is one option, although there is a chance Heiden Bedwell-Curtis could be available later in the season if he recovers from a broken cheekbone.
Adding to Cooper's problems is halfback Chris Smylie who strained a medial ligament in Taranaki's 32-31 win over Northland, a result that puts them into second on the NPC table, a point behind Auckland, although they have played one less game.
Taranaki captain Craig Clarke was relieved to leave Whangerei with four competition points after a late comeback from Northland.
Clarke had the option of kicking for goal when Taranaki were 29-17 ahead with just over 10 minutes remaining but chose to chase a four-try bonus point.
The decision almost back fired when Northland scored two late tries but Taranaki held on after Frazier Climo added a sixth penalty to give them enough of a buffer.
The match, Taranaki's third in a week, was a scrappy affair, punctuated by mistakes and constant infringing.
Clarke defended his decision not to kick for goal and give Taranaki a possible 15-point buffer, saying it felt like they were close to breaking down the Northland defence.
"I thought we just needed a bit more ball and the floodgates would open," he said. "Unfortunately our set piece let us down a bit. There were probably two leadership errors in that - I probably should have taken the shot and I probably should have taken the scrum [instead of a lineout]."
On a perfect night on a perfect playing surface, the amount of mistakes was mystifying.
It seems Taranaki are being dogged by the same errors - poor lineout execution and holes in their defensive line, especially when tight forwards are being stationed together out wide. Too often they are getting targeted and being beaten by opposition attacks.
That was evident against Northland who managed four tries to Taranaki's two on Saturday night.
Still, the results are coming, Auckland midweek aside, so Cooper should feel reasonably happy heading into their last four round-robin matches which start on Saturday with a Ranfurly Shield defence against Manawatu.
There will be critics who will point to Taranaki's mixed form, and the way they were dismantled by Auckland, as signs they are not a championship winning team.
"There will be some accuracy to that comment," Clarke said. "We've got a lot of improving to do. But in saying that, we have had a pretty interesting week. It's been challenging but we have a good normal week coming up and we're well aware we are not trucking as well as we should be."
Taranaki will work on getting quicker ball this week and will also see the likely return of fullback Andre Taylor who will have pins removed from his broken finger on Wednesday.
- © Fairfax NZ News