Injury to Taylor takes gloss off Taranaki win
Broken finger puts Taylor out of actionGLENN MCLEAN AT MT MAUNGANUI
A serious hand injury to star fullback Andre Taylor has taken the shine off Taranaki's opening NPC win over Bay of Plenty.
Taylor could be out for up to six weeks after he badly broke his right index finger 20 minutes into the match, won 37-22 by Taranaki.
After initially thinking Taylor had broken only his fingernail, the medical staff discovered it was much worse.
The knuckle was smashed and had broken through the skin, ripping the nail off, while the tendon that runs through the knuckle had snapped.
The injury required surgery, which Taylor had in Tauranga on Saturday night. Two pins were inserted, which will remain in place for four weeks.
Taranaki team doctor Steve Smith said the injury would take the fullback, who has just come off an excellent Super Rugby season with the Hurricanes, out for between four and six weeks.
Taylor said he had no clear idea how he got the injury after noticing the damage when Lelia Masaga had scored for the home side.
While the injury is bad news for Taranaki as they prepare to defend the Ranfurly Shield in three successive weeks, coach Colin Cooper at least has cover with Kurt Baker, James Marshall and Frazier Climo able to slot into the position.
Taylor's injury aside, Cooper was relatively happy with the performance his side put in, especially after they secured a bonus point through a last-minute try to captain Jason Eaton. "We're really happy with five points," Cooper said.
"I think we can play better than that though."
The veteran coach showed faith in his 22-man squad, going to the bench early in the second half, dragging on former All Black Jarrad Hoeata for Kane Barrett and Timo Tutavaha for rookie hooker Sione Lea.
"I want to keep driving the boys, and giving people opportunities is something we want to try and do better this year."
Cooper thought Tenderlink Taranaki went "away a little bit" from the game plan, which let Bay of Plenty back in the game at times.
From looking comfortable at 27-8 ahead, following tries to lock James Broadhurst, a beauty from Waisake Naholo from 35m out, and a 70m intercept from Beauden Barrett, Taranaki conceded five-pointers to Culum Retallick and replacement Nick McCashin.
They gave the home side a sniff at 30-22 with a few minutes to play before Eaton grabbed the match clincher after an excellent run from Barrett.
"We kicked too much ball away and allowed them to counter [attack] which is one of their major strengths," Cooper said.
Some of those kicks landed in the hands of Masaga, who looked Bay of Plenty's most potent attacking player by far.
That aside, there were plenty of positives for Taranaki.
Props Michael Bent and Chris King gave Taranaki an excellent platform from the scrum while upsetting the opposition's ball; Tutavaha was largely accurate with his throwing for the first 35 minutes; Naholo and Climo made repeated and effective breaks, while the brothers Barrett were top class.
Kane made a real impact when he came on, while Beauden was at the heart of most attacks.
There was also a promising NPC debut for halfback Jamison Gibson-Park, who cleared well and covered a lot behind the advantage line.
"He is doing what we expect," Cooper said. "He gets away with a lot at club rugby that he won't at this level but he's learnt pretty quickly."
Saturday's game also highlighted how quickly teams can get hurt in this competition.
Ahead 20-8 with seconds left in the first half, a lineout throw went astray, Bay of Plenty latched on to the ball and went close to scoring.
The scramble in defence from Taranaki ended with replacement centre Willie Rickards being yellow carded.
Luckily for Taranaki they held on for the following 10 minutes without conceding points. "You can't play with 14 men," Cooper said.
"Willie said it was a big call but we'll have a look at it."
Taranaki's stocks will be added to for Saturday night's shield defence against Tasman with the All Blacks confirming yesterday that Andrew Hore will be available to play.
Taranaki 37 (Waisake Naholo, James Broadhurst, Beauden Barrett, Jason Eaton tries; Barrett 4 cons, 3 pens)
Bay of Plenty 22 (Culum Retallick, Nick McCashin, Lelia Masaga tries; Kenny Lynn pen, McCashin 2 cons). Halftime: 20-8.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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