Anx­ious wait for Taranaki cap­tain af­ter an­other head knock

Marlborough Express - - SPORT -

Con­cus­sion to Char­lie Ngatai was the ma­jor point of note to come out of week five of the na­tional pro­vin­cial rugby com­pe­ti­tion and there’s an anx­ious wait on the Taranaki cap­tain’s health af­ter he suf­fered an­other wor­ry­ing head knock on Fri­day night.

Ngatai was to be as­sessed on Mon­day, af­ter he left the field dur­ing the first half of his side’s 29-7 Mitre 10 Cup vic­tory over Bay of Plenty in New Ply­mouth, af­ter a head clash with one of the vis­i­tors’ props, Jeff Th­waites.

It was im­me­di­ately clear Ngatai was dazed by the im­pact and team doc­tor Steve Smith took him straight from the field, where he then failed a head in­jury as­sess­ment.

The 27-year-old one-test All Black spent a year out of the game with con­cus­sion symp­toms be­fore re­turn­ing for the Chiefs in Su­per Rugby in May. Af­ter one match back he was side­lined again for a fur­ther three fix­tures fol­low­ing a head knock at train­ing, so the lat­est blow will cer­tainly add plenty more angst.

While his side were at times lack­ing di­rec­tion in their lat­est con­test, they man­aged to march on to a fourth win from five starts, se­cure a bonus point, and sit third on the premier­ship lad­der.

One point ahead of the Naki are the five-from-five North Har­bour, who got out of jail for a 31-22 win over North­land in Whangarei on Thurs­day night.

Har­bour had been well be­low what they had showed prior in this cam­paign, but, even af­ter trail­ing 22-17 with seven min­utes to play, man­aged to keep their un­beaten start to the sea­son in­tact, as Ben Volavola sliced through, then Matt Vaega plucked an in­ter­cept for a 40-me­tre run­away.

Speak­ing of run­aways, com­pe­ti­tion lead­ers Can­ter­bury put on a sec­ond suc­ces­sive stun­ning Ran­furly Shield de­fence, in dis­man­tling Coun­ties Manukau 78-5 in Christchurch on Wed­nes­day night.

Half­back Mitchell Drum­mond scored a re­mark­able four first-half tries, while Tim Bate­man bagged a hat-trick, as the red and blacks ran in 11 in to­tal to stun­ningly again post 78 af­ter do­ing so against South­land the week be­fore.

Their next de­fence is in a fort­night against Waikato, whose form has tailed off big time af­ter los­ing a third straight game - 23-10 to cham­pi­onship side Manawatu in Hamil­ton on Satur­day af­ter­noon.

The Mooloos led 10-3 near­ing the hour-mark, but a try off the back of a pow­er­ful scrum from Hamish Brewer - son of former All Black Mike - then the boot of Jade Te Rure guided the Tur­bos to vic­tory, and into fourth spot on the cham­pi­onship lad­der.

Waikato, hav­ing played one more game than the three teams above them, now sit fifth in the premier­ship, and even Auck­land are only now three points back, af­ter they notched just their sec­ond win from six starts in a 27-17 re­sult over South­land in In­ver­cargill on Fri­day night. The hosts opened the scor­ing af­ter just three min­utes but they re­main the only win­less team in the com­pe­ti­tion as All Blacks flanker Jerome Kaino got the vis­i­tors’ ac­count started, with Auck­land go­ing on to col­lect the bonus point.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

Is­rael Fo­lau dives to score his sec­ond try dur­ing the Wal­la­bies’ win.

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