Taranaki pass sternest test to retain Ranfurly Shield
Beauden Barrett is likely to turn out for Taranaki in their NPC match against Auckland on Wednesday night but don't expect to see him in another Ranfurly Shield defence this season.
Barrett was not used by the All Blacks in their 21-11 win over South Africa on Saturday night and is likely to join the Taranaki camp today ahead of their trip north.
The Taranaki management team had not heard yesterday what All Blacks coach Steve Hansen's plans for Barrett were, although it was looking increasingly likely the 21-year-old would be on a plane to Argentina on Saturday as Dan Carter's troubled calf injury remains a concern.
If Barrett does join the 28-man squad for the tour, which also includes a match in South Africa, he will miss Taranaki's NPC match against Northland on Saturday, as well as Ranfurly Shield defences against Manawatu on September 29 and Waikato on October 3.
"No, he's [Carter] not running full noise yet. The medical staff think he will be OK but we'll have to wait and see," Hansen said. "We'll probably make a decision late in the week, probably Friday.
"That's an option we've got [keeping Barrett], but we've got five props as well, so we might leave one of them at home and we have an extra loose forward too, so we could leave one of them home."
Barrett missed Taranaki's tension-filled 18-9 Ranfurly Shield win over Canterbury at Yarrow Stadium on Saturday and his replacement, James Marshall, is believed to be feeling the effects of a first-half head knock.
While he left the field for a concussion test, which he passed, Marshall was not feeling 100 per cent at the team's recovery session yesterday.
Taranaki were also waiting to hear whether lock James Broadhurst has to front a judicial hearing after he was cited by Canterbury for allegedly using a knee against an opponent in the first half.
While the incident appeared minor, the Canterbury management team were angered about what they saw, although their feelings were probably influenced, in part, by the disappointment at not taking the Shield south.
Favoured by most pundits to beat Taranaki, the four-time defending NPC champions were outplayed and forced into countless errors by a more determined opponent.
Before the game, Canterbury coach Tabai Matson said his side would have to bring their A game to beat Taranaki. They didn't because they simply were not allowed to.
“Clearly we didn't play to the conditions as well as the home team,” Matson said.
"On the back of a lot of errors, which is uncharacteristic, we were just poor.”
Canterbury never really threatened Taranaki's line, such was the standard of the home side's defence. The only time they did was when flanker Matt Todd had a try ruled out for an earlier knock-on.
“Against a team like Taranaki, you have to do a lot better than that,” Matson said.
Taranaki took a 10-6 lead into the break, thanks largely to a try from Marshall, who crossed after a neat move from a scrum. Canterbury will look back on their poor defence in that instance, as well as Scott Waldrom's 78th minute try, although they could argue it was a double movement close to the line.
Taranaki were quite happy to try to plug the corners in the second half as they camped in the Canterbury 22 for long periods.
“I think it was one of those games when it wasn't going to be the team who played the most rugby that would win,” Matson said. “It was the team that made the least mistakes.”
A rightfully proud Taranaki coach Colin Cooper was delighted with the way his side stuck to their work in difficult conditions with the wind swirling inside the stadium and heavy showers making handling extremely difficult.
"It is very satisfying, to play in front of your home crowd and to beat a major [title] contender like that, it's very, very pleasing," he said.
The 10,500 spectators who braved the elements saw their team once again show a level of maturity that has helped them maintain their record as the only unbeaten team in the NPC.
Cooper was pleased with the tactics his players employed late in the game as they kept Canterbury pinned deep in their half with some clever kicks, before backing them up with some staunch and aggressive defence.
"We have a lot of confidence in ourselves and we had a great week leading up to the match," he said. "It's all about preparation, which gives you confidence which you take out on to the field."
Tenderlink Taranaki captain Craig Clarke felt his side were relieved and satisfied afterwards.
"It felt like we had control of them but to finish with a try near fulltime was a good feeling," he said. "It's just great to beat Canterbury."
Clarke was also pleased at how Taranaki refused to panic when Canterbury did get a roll on in the second half, although the visitors never had the lead, despite missing a couple of opportunities to do so with penalty kicks.
"Our young guys are showing some real maturity," Clarke said.
The front row worked hard, while Waldrom was outstanding. Fellow loose forward Jarrad Hoeata was at his intimidating best while Jayden Hayward was the pick of the backs with the way he defended, helped cover the back three and shut down Canterbury's much hyped midfield.
Taranaki 18 (James Marshall, Scott Waldrom tries; Frazier Climo con; Climo, Jack Cameron pen)
Canterbury 9 (Tyler Bleyendaal 3 pen).
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