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Benji not ready for Test: Sheens

By Philip Henderson 27/04/2008 07:30:07 PM Comments (0)

Wests Tigers coach Tim Sheens has cast serious doubt over Benji Marshall's fitness and form for next month's Centenary Test despite the New Zealand five-eighth appearing confident he was up for the challenge after making a promising return from injury.

Marshall hobbled on his injured left knee early but went on to show glimpses of his trademark step and zip in attack as the Tigers overcame a sluggish start to beat Cronulla 20-16 at Toyota Stadium.

Sheens praised Marshall's courage in getting through 80 minutes despite "doing it tough" against Sharks duo Paul Gallen and Greg Bird in defence.

But the coach all-but begged Kiwi selectors to give the injury-plagued 23-year-old a break for the May 9 clash with Australia after Marshall last year admitted he came back from a shoulder injury too early to play Test football.

"I think he would have to improve a lot to play for New Zealand based on what I saw today, but that's up to the New Zealand guys," Sheens said.

"He's played 80 minutes and they certainly worked him over, and he still had a bit of spring in his step at the end of the game, but it still wasn't the usually sharp Marshall, no doubt about that.

"I've got concerns about him playing next week (for the Tigers).

"He had some medical treatment at halftime so how he pulls up and how he goes with a short week's preparation to play the Broncos (on Saturday) might be the first question. But that will be a wait and see situation."

After a five-week absence, Marshall was pleased with how he finished the game, but while appearing confident he would be ready to play for the Kiwis, insisted he wouldn't put his hand up if he didn't feel right when the team is announced next Sunday.

"Last year I went into the (Anzac) Test underdone and I know myself I didn't have a good game at all, so I don't want to go in underdone this time," said Marshall.

"If I feel like I'm not at Test level, I'm going to say it. I'll be doing the New Zealand team a favour by pulling myself out if I don't feel right.

"I'll see how I go next week. I was struggling today fitness wise.

"I didn't want to overplay today, I sort of underplayed if anything.

"I just wanted to have a run, just take them on ... it was a good way to finish the game for me. I didn't start too flash. But finishing with a good run and a step, that gives me a bit of confidence."

The win lifted the Tigers to seventh on the ladder, one ahead of the Sharks, who lost their second straight game at home after starting the season with four wins from five away games.

Gold Coast continue to set the pace at the top of the ladder after claiming their sixth win today, 36-24 over the New Zealand Warriors at Skilled Park.

Last year's grand finalists Melbourne and Manly both cemented spots in the top four after strong wins on Saturday night.

The Storm beat North Queensland 12-10 in Townsville while the Sea Eagles came from behind to defeat the Bulldogs 30-22 at Brookvale Oval.

Souths' miserable start to the season continued when the winless Rabbitohs were beaten 32-18 by second-placed Brisbane on Friday.

But fellow strugglers St George Illawarra sprung a major surprise on Anzac Day by upsetting the high-flying Sydney 26-6.

Parramatta, Newcastle, Penrith and Canberra all had the bye in round seven.

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