Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Benji off the leash

Marshall to return to league after Blues experiment fails.

Marshall played 212 minutes in six appearances for the Blues. Photo / Getty Images
Marshall played 212 minutes in six appearances for the Blues. Photo / Getty Images

The slowly unfolding car crash that was the Blues' Benji Marshall experiment skidded to a final and dramatic halt yesterday, but the main damage was done on Friday in Wellington.

Marshall appeared out of his depth at first-five when replacing Chris Noakes shortly before halftime. During the 45 or so minutes he was on the field his kicking tactics were poor and he offered zero threat with the ball in hand.

It was his big chance and he failed the examination. It is understood that coach John Kirwan, keen to give Marshall a decent run after a recent diet of substitution appearances, had been planning on playing him, probably at fullback, against the Waratahs at Eden Park this Friday. That was shelved after Marshall was forced to come on at No 10 in Wellington, was poor, and the Blues slumped to their 12th successive away defeat.

Read more:
Recruiting Marshall would hinder club, claims ex-Warrior
Marshall scratching for a new job
Growing pack power a welcome boost for Kirwan's Blues

Marshall will return to league, his rugby switch a failure.

The blame game will start - the Blues say they can't comment other than to confirm they are negotiating a release with Marshall, but the franchise must take its share of the criticism for its confused handling of the 29 year old.

His agent Martin Tauber told News Corp yesterday: "It just hasn't worked out, it is disappointing.

"He's not had the game time he'd like. This has all happened over the last 36 hours."

Marshall played 212 minutes in six appearances for the Blues. Initially signed as a first-five on a contract estimated at $500,000 a year, it was felt he was better suited to fullback after the Blues' three defeats in pre-season. He played only one full game - a good performance in the No 15 jersey in the narrow defeat against the Lions in Johannesburg - a match in which he scored a fine individual try.

However, Kirwan soon after raised concerns about Marshall's positional play in that match and gave him limited opportunities until the Hurricanes defeat.

Kirwan, who was coy about Marshall's immediate future on Sunday, wasn't available for comment last night but told One News before the news broke: "We've had a conversation and we've spoken about where we're at, we've had an honest conversation.

"We're processing that stuff now, it's frustrating.

"He's an incredibly good team man, a very honest man, we're having honest discussions and moving forward."

Marshall didn't train yesterday. His absence was put down to illness and personal issues. Many questions remain but the Blues will want to put the issue behind them quickly. The Marshall saga was turning into a massive distraction, one which they could clearly do without.

- APNZ

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf02 at 28 Nov 2014 16:11:44 Processing Time: 451ms