BENJI Marshall returned to the sport pages last night doing what he does best. Play dazzling rugby league.
Just days ago, an embarrassed Marshall had the indignity of having to present himself at a police station where he was charged with assault.
Last night at ANZ Stadium, Marshall was back on the footy field - and almost pulled off a miracle win for the Wests Tigers.
Marshall set up his first try with a lovely, long pass to winger Lote Tuqiri and then used some stunning footwork to score near fulltime.
But not even Marshall could rescue the Tigers, who eventually fell 24-14 to Canterbury in a top-class match.
“It’s been a long week,” Marshall said. “I was just happy to be back out there again with the boys.”
Marshall’s kicking game was however poor - a factor not lost on his Tigers coach Tim Sheens.
“He [Marshall] was hot and cold,” Sheens said. "He’d be disappointed with a few things he did. His kicking options were all right but he put too much on them [twice the ball shot dead-in-goal].
“In the second half I think he tried too hard. Between the six [Marshall] and the seven [halfback Robert Lui] we need to be better.”
Asked did he feel Marshall would be distracted going into the match, Bulldogs coach Kevin Moore said: “That’s a question for Tim [Sheens].”
It was a gripping and highly enjoyable contest last night - Canterbury scoring four tries to three to grab a vital round one victory.
The Bulldogs played tough last night - the kind of footy we are used to from them.
Canterbury led 6-4 at half-time before big Bulldogs recruit Frank Pritchard stormed through two defenders and past another to score a vital try. Provided he remains fit and mentally focused, Pritchard could prove to be this year’s best of the year.
Fellow Bulldogs new-buy Kris Keating scored in the 64th minute to seemingly seal the win. But Marshall’s try pushed his side back into the contest until Canterbury winger Steve Turner scored from a grubber kick five minutes from time to give the home side their victory.
It was a disappointing match for Sheens, in charge of his 200th game at Wests Tigers.
“We played well in patches but we didn’t finish our sets,” Sheens said.
"They kicked better than us. It was as simple as that.
“It was four tries to three so it’s not throat-cutting time. We just need to be better.”
Big Canterbury centre Jamal Idris was powerful throughout the game while his centre partner, Josh Morris, scored a blistering long-range try before sustaining a knee injury.
The Bulldogs will again be a force this year while the Tigers lost few friends last night.
“It was a terrific win,” said Bulldogs coach Kevin Moore. "We came here really confident.
“We knew it would be a tough game and we toughed it out for the 80 minutes. There are still areas where we can improve. The challenge for us is to find consistency.”
Canterbury looked cohesive last night given there were six new faces from the side that finished 2010 in 13th position.
“But we can still improve,” Moore said. "It was a high-quality game.
“The more tired we became, the more we went one-out.”
Turner’s final try came through a neat grubber kick from recruit Trent Hodkinson. The kick no doubt came through a summer of coaching and advice from former Canterbury halfback Brett Kimmorley.
Rising Canterbury forwards Sam Kasiano and Jake Foster were sound performers throughout the night.
BULLDOGS 24 (K Keating J Morris F Pritchard S Turner tries B Goodwin 4 goals) bt WESTS TIGERS 14 (C Lawrence B Marshall L Tuqiri tries B Marshall goal) at ANZ Stadium. Referee: Gavin Badger, Brett Suttor. Crowd: 26,737.