‘Outstanding’: Souths star blows Bennett away
South Sydney coach Wayne Bennett remains bamboozled by rival clubs’ reticence to sign Benji Marshall after the evergreen playmaker turned back the clock to engineer a stunning Rabbitohs fightback against the Titans.
Marshall was snapped up by Bennett in January, a month before his 36th birthday, after being jettisoned by the Wests Tigers and unwanted by other NRL clubs, with the play now looking like a masterstroke.
Marshall scored two tries and had a hand in two others as South Sydney fought back from a 24-10 halftime deficit to beat the gallant Titans 40-30 at Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast.
“I keep reading about clubs that have overhauls of players and he’s a guy that nobody wanted,” Bennett said.
“He’s been wonderful for us. We love having him and he loves playing with us, so you can’t have a better relationship than that.”
It’s the second time that Bennett has revived Marshall’s career after handing him a lifeline at the Broncos that led to his second coming at the Tigers.
But believing he still had more to give last year after being refused a new contract with his first NRL club, Marshall reached out to Bennett again, with Souths’ move now proving a stunning play with Latrell Mitchell sidelined for the next month due to suspension.
“He’s just your average guy, down to earth, knows his game really well, knows all the processes that go to make a good game of football,” Bennett said.
“His second-half performance tonight was pretty outstanding.”
Marshall has proven a handy buy for Souths.Source:Getty Images
After an error-riddled first half, the Rabbitohs turned the tables in the second term, shutting the Gold Coast out of the game with Marshall, playing at five-eighth, and halves partner Adam Reynolds, masterminding the comeback.
Marshall, who rose to prominence as a teen at Keebra Park High School, just overshadowed the efforts of Titans rival David Fifita, who graduated from the same famous Gold Coast nursery more than a decade later.
Fifita showed he was worth every cent of his club-record Titans contract, scoring his second hat-trick for the club, this one inside the opening 40 minutes.
His effort to beat six defenders, one of them twice, to score his second try, gave the Titans not only momentum but the belief they could compete with the Rabbitohs but Souths’ flawless performance helped them across the line.
Bennett was not surprised by Fifita’s showing, saying it was why he had tried to lure the former Bronco to Sydney for the 2021 season.
“He’s a player,” Bennett said.
“That’s why they paid the money they paid for him. I tried to get him to Souths but he didn’t want to come to Sydney.”
In a literal game of two halves, the Rabbitohs turned things around after the break to notch their sixth successive win of the season and show themselves to be genuine premiership threats.
Bennett said he was thrilled with his team’s ability to turn things around after the poor start.
“We had to do something. We were heading into the abyss and we got the chance to regather ourselves and get our game back on track and that first 10 minutes of the second half (with tries to Dane Gagai and Benji Marshall) sealed the game for us because we took away their field position and picked up two tries.
“We had to nail it and if we didn’t we would have lost by another 20 points.
“We were just off it happens but we were brave enough to come back and win the second half.”
SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS 40 (Paulo, Walker, Gagai, Marshall 2, Johnston tries; Reynolds 8 goals) def GOLD COAST TITANS 30 (Fifita 3, Fogarty, Peachey tries; Fogarty 5 goals).
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