Marshall has eyes on a blazer
Lewis Marshall has personal as well as team reasons for beating Southland tonight and charging on to the semifinals.
A semifinals spot would be his 20th game for Manawatu and would earn him a coveted blazer.
And a Turbos' win would have them hanging on, hoping Counties-Manukau beat Northland at Whangarei tomorrow afternoon.
It has taken Marshall three seasons, hampered by injuries, but the former Hato Paora College wizard has the talent to be a regular for the Turbos. If he became the consummate professional, his skills could take him further because opponents are often left groping air when he hits gaps.
His hot feet scorched him through the Hawke's Bay midfield last Saturday to set up the try which helped turn around Manawatu's season in the space of 80 minutes.
"I didn't think I would get through that gap," Marshall said.
It was also only the third time in 18 games Marshall had played 80 minutes for Manawatu, for whom he has appeared in four positions.
This year he has had to contend with a sore foot and back but massages every second day have done the trick.
"I was always injured and it frustrated me," he said.
"The Hawke's Bay game was my first 80-minute game in ages," he said. "I felt energised as. They [Hawke's Bay] didn't do much and I didn't have too much to do."
The 24-year-old captured the fullback spot, with Nehe Milner-Skudder moving to the wing, when Marshall came on against Counties-Manukau, scored a try and set up another.
"I like fullback or anywhere, as long as I can play."
The coaches expected the players to be shattered after the effort required to shut out Hawke's Bay and contend with the weather. Instead, it seems to have lifted them as they head to Invercargill.
"All the boys are pretty pumped about that," Marshall said. "Whenever our forwards step up it makes our game plan pretty easy."
Meanwhile, Grant Polson was pronounced fit to play at loosehead prop with Eric Fry in the reserves covering both propping positions.
Coach Jason O'Halloran was running water bottles when Manawatu beat Southland 25-23 at Invercargill in 2009 so he and five of the players who were there know they can do it again. But Southland held Taranaki for 40 minutes last Sunday before being over-run 48-17 and Manawatu must throw everything at the Stags for 80 minutes, especially in the scrum.
Southland appear to have bombed since All Black Jimmy Cowan went to Gloucester. His brother Scott has gone to Viadana (Italy) and injuries have wracked them. Captain Jamie Mackintosh (ribs) was in doubt for tonight.
Southland's mental state must have taken a massive thump with their 84-0 loss to Canterbury, as has their defence from set play. But they are always gritty critters at home.