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Rugby League

Marshall takes on role of world's best in Kiwi triumph

New Zealand's 16-12 victory over Australia in the final of the Four Nations in Brisbane marked the passing of the mantle as the world's most influential player from one great stand-off to another.

Darren Lockyer's 54th and perhaps last international for Australia was one of his quietest. The changing of the guard was completed by the New Zealand captain, Benji Marshall, who did what Lockyer has done so often, making all the key plays that swung the game.

The best and last was two minutes from time when he ran the ball on the final tackle of what could have been the Kiwis' last set, supported the right-wing break and threw the final pass with pure instinct to a player he could not see. Nathan Fien scored and, for the third time in major finals in the last five years, New Zealand had won when it mattered.

"I was getting messages from my coach that weren't very nice," Marshall said. "He was telling me to get my hands on the ball but there were a few other words thrown in there."

Stephen Kearney need not have worried. It was far from being a one-man show, but it is Marshall who has become the face of Kiwi rugby league. "We need to keep our standard that high," he said. "We've a long way to go to match the rugby union, but a win like that helps."