Sunday 25 February 2018

Conor Murray pays tribute to Lions pack after win over Crusaders

Conor Murray hailed the British and Irish Lions pack for handing him an armchair ride against the Crusaders' All Black tight five.

Ireland scrum-half Murray praised the Lions' forwards for gifting him a rock-solid platform from which to dominate with pinpoint tactical kicking in Saturday's impressive 12-3 win in Christchurch.

The Crusaders' front five will form the majority of New Zealand's tight forwards for the three-Test series that starts on June 24.

And Murray admitted the Lions laid down a marker in dominating the much-vaunted pack of the runaway Super Rugby leaders.

"Our pack was very good, in terms of laying a platform," said Murray, who must surely be in pole position to start the first Test at scrum-half.

"You are kicking on your own terms. People go after your breakdown when you are trying to kick and they made that solid.

"I don't think we got shoved off a ball, in terms of counter rucking, all night.

"I could kick with relatively little pressure. That's fantastic.

"The lads that came on added impact as well, gave us front-foot ball.

"When CJ (Stander) came on, it gave us a good carry round the corner, an opportunity to attack and we made a line break off that. It's a step in the right direction.

"It's a good night and a good performance and something we can build on.

"Winning was the most important thing.

"It was a massive challenge because we are relatively new together, we are still trying to gel as a squad and I think we're doing a good job of it.

"But they had a number of really good internationals, it was a massive challenge. I think we came through pretty well."

While Munster half-back Murray admitted the Lions were delighted to set their tour on track after the 22-16 loss to the Blues, he insisted Warren Gatland's men will not run away with themselves.

Asked if outside criticism had affected the squad, Murray said: "No, not at all; a couple of days ago, we lost and there was criticism.

"Now we've won, people will probably be bigging you up. But we won't fool ourselves.

"We know there is stuff we can work on. There are things we did, a few slip-ups or turnovers that the All Blacks would finish off.

"Just because we won against the Crusaders doesn't take the pressure off.

"We're going back at it again on Tuesday."

Peter O'Mahony produced a bullish performance to boost his chances of Test selection, with Munster team-mate Murray hailed the flanker's resolve.

O'Mahony has had to battle through almost 18 months of knee problems, but now looks back to his aggressive best.

"Pete's a happy man at the moment, a close friend of mine," said Murray.

"I've seen the tough times he's been through. He worked incredibly hard to get back in the picture.

"I can see it in him, he is not just happy to be here, he is another one who really wants a Test place.

"He is pushing himself. You can see it in him. Like for most people, competition really is red hot, and he is relishing it."

Stuart Hogg faces a fitness battle after failing a Head Injury Assessment (HIA), in a clash unwittingly caused by Murray.

Hogg raced face first into Murray's elbow as the Lions scrum-half tried to evade the counter-attacking full-back.

To add insult to the unintentional injury, Murray and Hogg have been rooming together.

"I'm rooming with him at the moment; I'll have to make him a few cups of tea," said Murray, of Scotland star Hogg.

"We had a laugh and giggle about it but I definitely owe him one."

Press Association

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