Benji Marshall made a solid debut for the Blues in their 38-35 loss to the Hurricanes in a warm-up match in Masterton on Saturday.
Benji Marshall made a satisfactory debut for the Blues in their 38-35 loss to the Hurricanes in a warm-up match in Masterton on Saturday.
The rugby league convert was the man most of the sell out crowd had come to watch, and he did well in his first game, although most observers will agree he can still improve.
Playing at fly-half, Marshall stood slightly deep, early on, in his first fully competitive rugby union match since he was 17 but made a good impression during his 40 minutes on the park.
He communicated well, kicked off after being told he'd be doing the restarts shortly before the match started, made a trademark dart early on and put players into gaps with deft offloads.
He seemed to grow in confidence as the game progressed but was on the receiving end of a big hit from Hurricanes flanker Ardie Savea, who read Marshall's trademark side-step like a book.
The crowd were treated to an entertaining match with a total of 11 tries scored, with the Hurricanes securing victory with a late try by lock James Broadhurst.
Blues boss Sir John Kirwan said Marshall could be proud of his performance in his first match.
“The most positive thing was how he came around the corner [of the rucks and mauls] flat and hard at the line,” he told the New Zealand Herald.
“He had a go. He implemented the game plan well and I think it's important to mention he didn't try too hard.
“The only concern was when he went into contact a couple of times.”
It is unlikely that a move to full-back is an option for now.
“I thought about him there but he hasn't got time to master two positions,” added Kirwan.
“He came in at first-five and has shown good signs there, so that's how it'll be.”
Marshall admitted that it took him some time to adapt.
“It was a bit of a blur to be honest,” he said.
“I struggled to get a feel in the first 20 minutes but in my second 20 I started to realise what it's going to take to direct the team. I didn't set the game on fire but got some control.
“When you don't have the ball, it's a tough sport but once we controlled possession it felt great.”
Marshall revealed that he was still unsure on the rules and conduct at the breakdown.
“I hit a couple of rucks but don't think I was taking anybody out,” he said.
I don't really understand the rules there yet. “I was just guessing. The defence is also different with so much of it sliding compared to league.”
The game also gave him an idea on the brutality of the game.
“Having Ardie Savea coming at me a lot of times from the inside [channel] gave me a feel for what's coming,” added Marshall.