Benji Marshall’s hopes of a recall to the New Zealand Test team may be in jeopardy after being forced from the field during St George Illawarra’s heartbreaking 11-10 golden-point NRL elimination final defeat.
The star halfback injured his ankle in a 50th-minute tackle by Canterbury lock Greg Eastwood on Saturday night.
Play stopped for some time while Marshall received treatment and, after trying to play on with strapping, the Dragons No.7 succumbed to the injury, leaving a half-fit Gareth Widdop to lead the attack.
The former Kiwis captain emerged from the sheds and made a handful of runs along the sideline in an attempt to play through the pain, before going back up the tunnel.
Marshall hasn’t played for New Zealand for three years but was well placed to get back into the squad after Golden Boot winner Shaun Johnson suffered a season-ending ankle injury and his Warriors teammate Thomas Leuluai ruptured knee ligaments.
The Kiwis play England in a three-Test series beginning in London on November 7 and scans in coming days will no doubt give a guide as to whether Marshall is a chance to tour England.
The Dragons’ attack had been shut out in the first half, but Marshall warmed to the contest in the second, flashing his brilliance with a vintage individual effort in the 46th minute, only for the try to be denied due to obstruction.
Minutes later, he fell awkwardly in the Eastwood tackle, with his side still behind 6-0.
But Widdop, who carried a quad injury into the match and had his leg heavily strapped, twice kicked clutch goals in the final 10 minutes, one from the sideline and the second after the fulltime siren, to send the game into overtime.
However the Dragons five-eighth kicked the ball out on the full in the extra period, handing opposition pivot Josh Reynolds the opportunity to steal the win with a 20-metre field goal in the 84th minute.
The Dragons were left with 15 fit players after bench forward Joel Thompson lasted just minutes in the second half before re-aggravating a hamstring problem.