Munster’s Conor Murray singled out by NZ media as key to Lions success.
While not overly impressed with the Lions attacking prowess over the first three games, New Zealand media and supporters have grudgingly began to see some sort of a competitive threat to the All Blacks in the first Test.
Conor Murray’s part in helping guide the Lions to a stubborn victory over the Crusaders on Saturday has drawn the attention of Kiwi rugby writers.
Murray’s box kicking allowed the aerial attack to cause huge problems for the Crusaders and prevent them from fully developing their attacking game.
Gregor Paul of the New Zealand Herald called Murray’s performance ‘masterful’.
“The selection of Conor Murray at halfback and Owen Farrell at No 10 seemed to be enough itself to transform the Lions into something more threatening.
“Murray can run and he can pass even if he spent most of the night booting the ball. He kicked and he kicked and it worked for the Lions. They started to force mistakes and frustrate the Crusaders.
“It was masterful from Murray – a sign of his maturity and tactical reading and the danger with him is that he can mix it up the next time he plays. The All Blacks have been warned – that if they [let] Murray control the game, he will. They have also been warned that if they don’t deal with the high ball, they will be in trouble.”
Richard Loe, also for the New Zealand Herald, was scathing of Gatland’s tactics and questioned if Lions fans could really watch that sort of rugby week-to-week?
He did however balance his article with some praise of the 8-9-10 axis of Faletau, Murray and Farrell.
“One area of the Lions operation I was impressed with was the link from No.8 to halfback to first-five.
“Taulupe Faletau played well, and surely they’ve got to go with Conor Murray and Owen Farrell as their 9-10 test combination. Murray was brilliant and Farrell has an ability to spot gap.”
Stuff.co.nz‘s Mark Reason called Murray the ‘best kick and defensive’ scrum-half in rugby while criticising the Muster man’s passing of his weaker left side.
On a few occasions, Murray’s pass left the first receiver with a difficult task and knock ons and turnovers ensued. Against the All Blacks these small errors could prove extremely costly.
“The biggest bother for the Lions was Murray’s passing off his left hand. On three separate occasions in the first half he gave the ball back to the Crusaders with awful passes.
“It may be a legacy of the shoulder injury Murray suffered towards the end of the Six Nations, but the Lions need to sort it out quickly.
“Murray is now probably the best kicking and defensive halfback in the world, but the Lions cannot afford him to pass as poorly as this. On a night when there were so many positives for Gatland, it will probably be his biggest area of concern.”
Phil Gifford, also for Stuff.co.nz, described Murray as the stand out player of the Lions’ win.
“Of the many Lions who played extremely well, the key man was Conor Murray, the Irish halfback, whose kicking at the base of breakdowns and scrums was absolutely superb.
“Before the tour started Sean Fitzpatrick suggested Murray would be one of the most vital players in the Lions’ squad, and if he continues this form he certainly will be.”
It’s hard to disagree with the sentiments above but Mark Reason’s comments are worth noting. Let’s hope the Munster and Garryowen man can improve as the weeks go by. He certainly is key to the Lions success on this tour.