Taranaki poised to pounce on Shield, title drive

GLENN MCLEAN
Last updated 05:00 15/08/2011

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Taranaki sit second on the national provincial championship table after a weekend of upsets that included Manawatu breaking a 124-year hoodoo in Wellington.

Waikato overtook Taranaki on the ITM Cup premiership table after their 25-10 win over Otago in Hamilton last night, although it is only a bonus point that keeps them above Colin Cooper's side, with both teams having won five of their seven matches.

Taranaki now enter the critical three-match period of their season.

Canterbury will be their first target on Saturday when Taranaki will have to go without lunch in Christchurch, with kickoff scheduled for 12.30pm.

That match, which pits second against third, will be followed by Taranaki's Ranfurly Shield challenge the following Wednesday after Southland scored a last-minute win over challengers North Harbour on Saturday.

Taranaki's last round-robin match is against Hawke's Bay in New Plymouth on Sunday, August 28.

While they lost their lead at the top of the table, there was some good news on the injury front for Taranaki, with wing Andre Taylor cleared of any major damage to his kidneys after Friday night's 26-23 win over Tasman.

Taylor, 23, was taken to hospital after the game with suspected kidney damage and in severe pain.

Yesterday, Tenderlink Taranaki manager Shane McDonald said Taylor suffered bruising to a kidney.

"He really only went to hospital as a precaution. He had to be monitored for a while, but he has been given the all-clear."

Taylor was rushed to hospital last year after he ruptured his bowel playing against Manawatu but has had no lasting effects from the injury.

McDonald said Taylor was likely to be considered for Taranaki's match against Canterbury on Saturday but would be assessed during the week.

"I think they are just going to see how it settles down over the next couple of days and go from there."

Apart from Taylor, Taranaki had no other injury concerns from the Tasman match, with the players given the weekend off after playing three games in six days.

The squad have, however, lost Samoa internationals George Pisi and Mahonri Schwalger who have joined their national squad to prepare for the World Cup. Both missed Friday night's match because of injury.

Meanwhile, Taranaki have decided to stay on in the South Island after the Canterbury match.

While they originally planned to return to New Plymouth following the Canterbury game, McDonald said it made sense to stay and fly to Invercargill from Christchurch for the Ranfurly Shield match against Southland.

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That plan would not have changed if Southland had lost to North Harbour at the weekend, McDonald said.

- Taranaki Daily News

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