Conor Murray has no doubt that world champions New Zealand will be “hurting” heading into Saturday’s Test series decider against the British and Irish Lions.
Scrum-half Murray scored the Lions’ second try as they claimed a dramatic 24-21 victory at Westpac Stadium, edging home after All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams was sent off in the first half.
Murray also starred when Ireland beat the All Blacks in November last year, before New Zealand responded by gaining a revenge victory at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium two weeks later.
The Munster No 9 knows the scene is set for a high-octane series conclusion at Eden Park, where the hosts have not lost since 1994.
“They are going to be hurting, aren’t they?” Murray said. “They will have a response, they will be hurting and they are at home in Eden Park. It’s going to be a massive challenge.
“We will enjoy this and appreciate what we’ve done, but everyone is 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 next week.
“Not many people get to be in this position. We are going to do our best to take it.”
The match in Wellington, which was rain-drenched in the first half and dry in the second, saw the score progress in increments of three points as Beauden Barrett and Owen Farrell engaged in a duel of penalties before Taulupe Faletau scored the game’s first try.
The Lions had little possession even with their numerical advantage – struggling to take full advantage of Williams’ 25th-minute dismissal for a no-arms tackle on Lions winger Anthony Watson – and it cost them the chance to put pressure on a reduced All Blacks defence.
But that changed in the 60th minute when they received a promising possession on attack. The Lions first probed through the speedy Watson down the right flank, and then shifted the ball wide on the left to Faletau, who outflanked a stretched defence. Then eight minutes later, Murray scored and the Lions found themselves level with the All Blacks but playing with renewed vigour and momentum.
Hooker Jamie George made a telling burst through the defence inside the 22 and when the Lions quickly recycled possession, Murray darted around a ruck and stretched full-length to score.
Farrell stepped up to kick the winning goal for a dangerous tackle by replacement prop Charlie Faumuina.
“At 18-9 down we had to show courage and character – and we did that,” said Lions coach Warren Gatland, pictured. “We got ourselves out of a hole and a win for us keeps the series alive.”
The Lions squad now head to Queenstown in New Zealand’s Southern Alps for pre-planned rest and recovery until arriving in Auckland on Wednesday, from where final third Test preparations will be made.
“Mentally, we are going to be thinking about this game all week, but the next few days are about rest and recovery,” added Murray. “It’s nice to think it will be a bit quieter down in Queenstown, to get away from the bubble of it and then rev up and go for it.
“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 are going to need it again next week and be a lot more clinical.”