Ngatai knock key is­sue

The Timaru Herald - - CATALYST -

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

Tas­man have climbed into fourth spot on the premier­ship lad­der af­ter hold­ing on for a dra­matic 29-27 win over Otago in Dunedin on Satur­day evening.

The Makos were up 29-13 early in the sec­ond spell thanks to ref­eree Mike Fraser award­ing a penalty try and sin-bin­ning Otago first five-eighth Josh Ioane for an in­ten­tional knock-down.

But it was soon 14-apiece when the vis­i­tors had cap­tain Alex Ain­ley yel­low carded for a ruck in­fringe­ment, then just two min­utes later cen­tre Levi Au­mua was red-carded for a tip tackle, as Otago scored two late con­verted tries.

In a bat­tle of the des­per­ates, Coun­ties Manukau pre­vailed against Hawke’s Bay in their na­tional pro­vin­cial rugby clash in Pukekohe on Sun­day.

With both teams not hav­ing tasted vic­tory since week one, each was par­tic­u­larly hun­gry in this cross­over clash, and while the sides largely played like their records sug­gested, it was the Steel­ers who in the end ran away 33-14 win­ners in a bonus-point ef­fort.

Not even seem­ingly un­beat­able Can­ter­bury are im­mune from the quick backup.

Four days af­ter top­ping 70 points in a Ran­furly Shield de­fence against Coun­ties Manukau, the run­away red and blacks were given some cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment by Welling­ton to wrap up week five.

Welling­ton pro­duced a stun­ning 60-14 win over Can­ter­bury as a storm whipped through West­pac Sta­dium on Sun­day.

A long range Savea try from a Jack­son Gar­den-Ba­chop in­ter­cept, then a stun­ner from hooker-of-the­mo­ment Asafo Au­mua, saw Welling­ton lead 17-7 at half­time be­fore two charge­down tries saw them bolt to 31-7 with 30 min­utes left.

As the rain tum­bled the flood­gates opened late, as Welling­ton scored 43 sec­ond half points and eight tries in all.

PHOTO: REUTERS

All Blacks wing Nehe Mil­ner-Skud­der looks like he’s head­ing for a tough land­ing as he loses a high ball.

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