Friday 22 November 2019

Conor Murray demands cool heads for series decider


Conor Murray scores the Lions’ second try in yesterday’s win over the All Blacks at Westpac
Stadium in Wellington. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Conor Murray scores the Lions’ second try in yesterday’s win over the All Blacks at Westpac Stadium in Wellington. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor in Wellington

Conor Murray has urged his Lions colleagues to keep their cool and deliver a series win in Auckland next Saturday after playing a leading role in yesterday's historic victory over New Zealand in Wellington.

Warren Gatland's team levelled the series thanks to a nail-biting, controversial 24-21 win over the world champions who played 55 minutes with 14 men after Sonny Bill Williams saw red for a dangerous shoulder charge on Anthony Watson.

The tourists fell nine points down during an ill-disciplined second half, but rallied with Taulupe Faletau and Murray scoring tries and Owen Farrell holding his nerve to secure a famous victory with a penalty three minutes from the end.

The Lions travel to the resort of Queenstown today where they will take some time off before ramping things up for the Eden Park decider. And Murray said the squad's togetherness and mental strength shone through in the win.

"The emotion was there all week. We knew what we needed to do and we were right on it but sometimes that can spill over," the Munster scrum-half said.

"I gave away one or two penalties - a high tackle and not rolling away - silly things that we can control. We'll look at that this week and make sure they are in check. But to beat the All Blacks having been in a difficult position for most of the game just showed how much we cared and how much we were willing to work for each other.

"We're going to need it again next week and to be a lot more clinical.

"A lot of stuff didn't go our way today, particularly discipline - silly penalties made it hard for us chasing the game a bit too much but I thought we attacked them and you need to do that against the All Blacks and take your chances.

"That was probably what we didn't do last week. We didn't convert enough and that was an area, along with our defence and collision area, which I thought was really, really impressive tonight. I just thought we showed a lot of character, dug in and stayed in the fight and came out the right end.

"All week we have been building up to this. Last week, we were disappointed with our collisions and getting off the line. You could see it in the attitude. We were just hungry for it."

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen chose not to criticise referee Jerome Garces for the red card or his decision to choose leniency when Lions prop Mako Vunipola's elbow made contact with Beauden Barrett's head during a second-half ruck. He saw yellow, but it could easily have been expulsion.

They chose to keep their counsel, but Murray is expecting a backlash similar to the one that came in Dublin last November when the world champions brought a furious intensity to proceedings and avenged their defeat to Ireland in Chicago two weeks previously.

"They're going to be hurting, aren't they?" Murray said.

"Every time you come close to them they'll have a response, they'll be hurting and they're at home in Eden Park and it's going to be a massive challenge.

"We'll enjoy tonight and appreciate what we've done, but everyone's looking forward to beginning work and getting as well prepared for next week in trying to take an opportunity. It's a great place to be in. It will make the last week of the tour a little easier, it could have been a long week this week. Not many people get to be in this position, we're going to do our best to take it."

The Lions have no fresh injury worries, while Williams is almost certainly going to be banned for the decider. New Zealand winger Waisake Naholo went off with a head injury and didn't return, meaning Julian Savea may be recalled for the final Test.

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