Harsh words fired Benji to seal series - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Harsh words fired Benji to seal series

By Laine Clark 14/11/2010 12:41:34 PM Comments (0)

Donning sunglasses at 11pm, super cool Benji Marshall looked every inch New Zealand's matchwinner as he strode out for a celebratory Four Nations team picture at Suncorp Stadium.

But hours earlier on Saturday night, Marshall wasn't exactly the most popular member of the New Zealand rugby league team in coach Stephen Kearney's eyes.

In fact, Marshall was getting downright abused late in the series final against Australia at Suncorp Stadium.

"I was getting a few messages from the coach's box, things like 'get your hands on the ball' - but there were other words in there," Marshall smiled.

"The messages from the coach's box weren't nice but it got me into gear."

And how - Marshall went on to spark two tries in the final nine minutes to inspire New Zealand's stunning 16-12 upset victory.

It was a performance which surely clinched the Golden Boot world player of the year award for Kiwis skipper and playmaker Marshall.

At age 25, the player once seen by sceptics as a brilliant but error-prone genius with a brittle body has shown he's an increasingly consistent matchwinner at the highest level - and resilient enough to have played his 34th game for the year, more than anyone else in the field.

"Everyone is well aware of what he can do," Kearney said.

"That's why the messages were quite strong when they were coming down with 15 minutes to go.

"He understands what impact he can have on a game."

And Australia certainly don't need any reminding after Marshall helped New Zealand add the 2010 Four Nations crown to their 2005 Tri-Nations and 2008 World Cup trophies - all at the Kangaroos' expense.

But Marshall admitted he thought he had "butchered" it in the dying minutes.

Marshall's grubber set up winger Jason Nightingale's try in the 71st minute.

But Australia still kept a precious 12-10 lead after Marshall's conversion attempt hit the right upright.

"I would rather it miss by a mile than hit the upright," Marshall said.

Hardly fazed, Marshall then chanced his arm in what became the game's final play.

Marshall flung the ball wide as Shaun Kenny-Dowall combined with Nightingale to create an against the odds sideline break.

And Marshall was there to accept a Nightingale in pass that was touched by Australian skipper Darren Lockyer and appeared to float forward.

Yet Marshall appeared to hold onto the ball too late, forcing a last minute "Hail Mary" pass which was gratefully snaffled up by Queensland-born Kiwi Nathan Fien who crashed over for the match winner in the 79th minute.

"Jason did a great job to get it back to me - I almost butchered it in the end but we got it," Marshall said.

"I was trying to throw it to (fullback) Lance (Hohaia).

"But that's what Nathan is like, he follows up - like a little dog, a cute one."

Fien could only shake his head over Marshall's miracle pass.

"Benji is a bit of a freak isn't he," he said.

"I thought the pass could have gone to Lance but Benji being Benji, he wanted to create a bit more drama so he wanted to give the pass away when he was six inches off the ground."

Marshall's magic ensured his idol - and opposite number - Lockyer failed to receive a fitting farewell in what looked to be his final Test on Australian soil.

Not that he was making any apologies.

"That's my role, if something needs to be done I feel I have to contribute to that, and thankfully it came off," he said.

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