Extent of Otere Black's injury remains uncertain as Turbos look to bounce back from shield disappointment
The Manawatū Turbos are still waiting to find out the extent of Otere Black's knee injury, but he appears unlikely to front against Hawke's Bay on Sunday.
Black left the field on the back of the medical cart just before halftime in the side's 46-25 loss to Taranaki on Wednesday night.
The first five-eighth was on crutches with ice strapped to his knee after the match.
The injury to the 22-year-old added further pain for the Turbos in their failed Ranfurly Shield challenge, which has left them needing to beat Hawke's Bay on Sunday to control their semifinal fate.
But while Black is a big loss, having the in-form Jade Te Rure on deck means they have a quality replacement at No 10.
Black's injury looked set to mark a horror night for the Turbos.
He went down while prop Michael Alaalatoa was still in the sin bin and just before Taranaki bagged their fourth try of the first half to leave Manawatū trailing 27-6 at halftime.
Coach Jeremy Cotter, who bravely joined the team just one day after the funeral of his mother, said he called for calm at halftime.
"We spoke at halftime of keeping our composure and keeping our structure. When you are 27-6 down, you can go into your shell. The boys needed to stick together and I thought they did that."
Three second half tries to Te Rure, Jamie Booth and Ambrose Curtis worked Manawatū within nine points with six minutes to play.
But as they chased the game, Taranaki took advantage with two late tries to blow out the score.
Cotter said mistakes cost them at crucial times.
"We were a little inaccurate in the first half and did not quite put the pressure on them we needed to. We needed to make a few more tackles," he said.
"We could not get that continuity together that we needed. We could not string multiple phases together with a couple of dusty offloads and inaccuracies."
But he added that he was proud of the way his side stayed in the fight.
"You can't fault the effort. I am really proud of the way we got back into contention."
The Turbos do not have long to dwell on the shield disappointment with a match against Hawke's Bay in Napier on Sunday.
"The first thing is that we will assess how the boys are. We will need to pick them up. They are pretty down, they really gave it a massive effort," Cotter said.
"Hawke's Bay have been struggling all year and they are probably due for a good one. But if we want to challenge for the championship, we have to beat all comers."
Everything remains in play for Manawatū from a home semifinal to missing out on the playoffs completely.
While Hawke's Bay have been poor this season, a look at Manawatū's away record to the Magpies highlights the magnitude of the challenge they face.
The last time Manawatū beat Hawke's Bay away was in 1985, but that was in Hastings, where Hawke's Bay regularly staged matches until the 1990s.
Sunday's match is in Napier and Manawatū have not won there since 1955.
In fact Manawatū's record in Napier has been particularly dire.
They started well with a win in their first match there in 1904, but that was one of just four wins in 32 attempts.
Taranaki 46 (Seta Tamanivalu 2, Waisake Naholo 2, Charlie Ngatai, Marty McKenzie tries; Marty McKenzie 3 con, pen) Manawatū 25 (Jamie Booth, Ambrose Curtis, Jade Te Rure tries; Otere Black 2 pen, Jade Te Rure 2 con) HT: 27-6