Jury still out on Marshall
Sat, 01 Feb 2014 12:16
It wasn't about being the best player on the field
The plaudits are flooding in, but there are some dissenting voices who feel the jury is still out on Benji Marshall as a Rugby Union player.
The more balanced view is that it's too early to call Marshall's switch of codes a runaway success, but it will clearly not be an abject failure.
Marshall's first game for the Blues ended in defeat, after the Hurricanes snuck home 38-35 in their pre-season clash in Masterton on Saturday.
A sell-out crowd of 6000 piled in to Memorial Park to watch the former National Rugby League star test the waters in the 15-man code, Marshall starting the game at flyhalf before being replaced at half-time.
Marshall was nursing a sore foot after the game, won 38-35 by the Hurricanes and admitted he had found it difficult settling into his new sport after an 11-year Rugby League career.
"It's just different," Marshall told the New Zealand media, adding: "It was a bit of a blur to be honest.
"I didn't set the game on fire but, in terms of trying to get control and feel for playing No.10, everything I wanted to get I got out of it.
"It wasn't about being the best player on the field. It was just trying to get through what we practised and get a feel for the game.
"I think until you actually get a feel for the game you don't actually understand
"I still don't know the rules around the ruck so I was just guessing there to be honest.
"The first 20 minutes I sort of struggled to get a feel for it, but after we had that quarter time break I sort of realised what it was going to take to direct the team around."
He stood a tad deep at times, looked a little awkward in contact, but had a crack early, made a nice half-break running behind Jackson Willison and passed with growing confidence once the Blues got some possession.
"When you don't have the ball it's a pretty tough sport," he said.
"I just did as much as I could in that second quarter to make sure we held on to the ball and possession and once we did that it felt great.
Both Marshall and Blues coach John Kirwan felt that flyhalf is the perfect position for the code hopper.
"It's a learning curve and hopefully I can just get better with each game," Marshall said.
"I really enjoyed playing No.10 though. It's something I can probably see myself doing."
Marshall tried his trademark sidestep once - and met the considerable force of Hurricanes flank Ardie Savea - but mostly, he was content sticking to basics and getting a feel for his new position.
Marshall didn't shy away in defence, although he failed to hold on to Tim Bateman in the build-up to the Hurricanes' third try. He even opted to get stuck into a couple of rucks, with mixed results.
Kirwan was pleased with Marshall's first hitout and ruled out a switch to fullback.
"I think [flyhalf] is his position," said Kirwan.
"He certainly put his hand up, so we'll put him out there again next week and we'll just keep working on him. It was a good start.
"I thought it was a good start."
Sources: Fairfax NZ News & ONE Sport
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