London Irish 28 Leeds 24: Leeds fight Marshall plan to quit club

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The Independent Online

The former All Black scrum-half has another year to run on a contract which has no get-out clause in the event of the drop to National League One, but after this fifth narrow defeat of the season Marshall hinted that he wanted to remain in the top flight. Put another way, that he would like to wave goodbye to Leeds.

"I came over here because I wanted the experience of playing something different from what I had in New Zealand," said the 32-year-old, who won 81 caps. "But it didn't mean that I didn't want to experience it at the top level. That is what I came over here for and what I seek."

However, Leeds have no intention of letting Marshall walk out on them, and their chief executive, Gary Hetherington, said yesterday: "Justin has no escape clause in his contract. We want to build from here and Justin will playing for Leeds in National League One next season."

Marshall will probably accept that decision. "Look, I'll focus on the next couple of games and see what happens," he said on Saturday. "Ultimately it's Leeds' decision what they want to do with me. And whatever happens, you put up with it. I would have expected Leeds to be a lot higher up than we are, and that seems a little bit like I have failed in what I came over here to do.

"I felt that Leeds were always competitive and capable of beating all the other teams in the competition, but what they couldn't do was win those close ones. I thought that perhaps with my experience I might have been able to help the side and get us into positions to win those sorts of games, rather than lose them, but that hasn't happened, so I feel slightly disappointed about that. But I have played my heart and guts out. That's the way that I am."

Against Irish, the whole of the Leeds side played their hearts out, to the extent that they scored four tries, the first by Marshall, to earn one bonus point.

Their captain Stuart Hooper faces a disciplinary hearing after picking up two yellow cards, one for reckless use of the boot, the second for punching, yet even when reduced to 14 men for the second time in the match Leeds managed to stay close enough to Irish to earn another bonus.

Had Roland de Marigny not missed a couple of earlier conversions and a solitary penalty, they would have pulled off a deserved victory. As it was, Exiles' livewire fly-half Riki Flutey out-kicked him and Irish reinforced their challenge for a place in next season's Heineken Cup.

London Irish: Tries Danaher, Mordt, Armitage; Conversions Flutey 2; Penalties Flutey 3. Leeds: Tries Marshall, Bell, Biggs, Thomas; Conversions De Marigny, Ross.

London Irish: D Armitage; T Ojo, N Mordt (S Geraghty, 38), M Catt (capt), S Tagicakibau; R Flutey, P Hodgson (D Edwards, 80); N Hatley, R Russell (D Paice, 40), F Rautenbach (R Skuse, 40), R Casey (R Strudwick, 77), K Roche, D Danaher, O Magne (K Dawson, 73), P Murphy (J Leguizamon, 49).

Leeds: I Balshaw; A Snyman, C Bell, C Jones (G Ross, 40), T Biggs; R de Marigny, J Marshall; M Shelley, G Bulloch (R Rawlinson 53-80), R Gerber (M Cusack, 32-53), C Murphy (K Myall, 54), S Hooper (capt), S Morgan, N Thomas, J Crane.

Referee: C White (Gloucestershire).

* The Leicester and England scrum-half Austin Healey, who has said he wants to play part-time next season, has been in talks with the National League One club Coventry.

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