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Dublin: 4°C Friday 7 May 2021
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Brilliant night for Furlong and the rest of the Irish Lions in Christchurch

It was a great night for the Irish contingent.

Murray Kinsella reports from AMI Stadium, Christchurch

THE LIONS HAD an impressive 12-3 victory over the Crusaders at AMI Stadium this evening.

Read our match report here, but below we focus on the Irish players involved.

Conor Murray

The Munster scrum-half is perhaps the best box kicker in world rugby, both in exiting and launching contestables. Early in this game, he relieved pressure from the Lions’ 22 with an absurdly long clearance, and that class continued throughout.

Conor Murray Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

There were some poor passes in an otherwise excellent performance, and Murray had Sean O’Brien to thank for tracking back on Richie Mo’unga, but the scrum-half also delivered some excellent service to Owen Farrell and Johnny Sexton.

Murray defended as well as ever, hitting powerfully, while he also threatened around the fringes at times. Rhys Webb is playing good rugby at the moment, but Murray is likely to be wearing that nine shirt come Test time.

Peter O’Mahony

The Ireland flanker absolutely loved this contest, shirking nothing and showing aggression in the face of the Crusaders’ determined challenge.

Peter O'Mahony celebrates winning Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

There was clever breakdown work, including one turnover with the boot. There was a big lineout steal, underlining how effective a player he is in that area. There were also clever short passes to release players, including Ben Te’o in the second half.

O’Mahony was superb throughout this game and he has made a big statement to Warren Gatland about his Test back row options. His leadership was obvious watching the game live, and he looked to love this stage.

Sean O’Brien

Over on the other side of the back row, O’Brien showed that he has now returned to somewhere close to his physical peak.

Sean O'Brien with David Havili and Richie Mo’unga Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The pace he showed to stay with Mo’unga on that first-half linebreak was eye-opening and the Tullow man looks to have found the perfect balance between mass and mobility. To get through 56 minutes having not played since the start of April was valuable.

O’Brien is built for these kind of occasions and with his 2013 tour experiences behind him, he will be eyeing a Test place. Sam Warburton is currently sidelined with an ankle issue, so there was an opportunity there for O’Brien to underline his quality.

His barnstorming performance saw him grab the chance with both hands.

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Tahdg Furlong

The favourite to start the Tests at tighthead, Furlong lived up to the billing as he saw off two All Black looseheads at scrum time – showing both Joe Moody and Wyatt Crockett exactly how good he is in the set-piece.

Tadhg Furlong celebrates winning Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Around the park, Furlong demonstrated that he is about much more than scrummaging, with his handling and footwork before carrying both standing out. The Wexford man is a very complete prop.

And Gatland and scrum coach Graham Rowntree would have liked seeing Furlong telling the Crusaders to concentrate on their set-piece after one penalty in his favour, as the Irishman’s confidence continues to grow.

An excellent first outing.

Johnny Sexton

The Leinster out-half proved that there is plenty of life left in him, as he made his third appearance in a week and played 50 minutes off the bench after Jonathan Davies’ head injury in the first half.

inpho_01220836 Source: Photosport/John Davidson/INPHO

With Sexton’s early arrival pushing Farrell to inside centre, the Lions often looked slick in attack, even if they couldn’t find the crucial clinical edge that has been missing so far on this tour.

Sexton made good decisions on the ball and defended intelligently, although he would have wished for more pace after Anthony Watson’s big second-half break.

Having struggled in the tour opener against the Provincial Barbarians and then improved against the Blues, this was the best outing yet from Sexton and his 10-12 combination with Farrell may now be back in Gatland’s thinking.

Jack McGrath

Mako Vunipola grew into the game and showed his playmaking class in the second half in particular, but McGrath was solid off the bench in the closing quarter.

He would have preferred to have more work to get through, but the Leinster man remains in contention for a Test spot.

CJ Stander

The powerful Munster man came on at blindside flanker with around 15 minutes to go and was as busy as ever, but he will be gutted with his knock-on of Sexton’s inside pass after the aforementioned Watson linebreak.

The back row is going to be fiercely competitive and Stander will be desperate for another chance to start as soon as possible.


Source: The42 Rugby Show/SoundCloud

 

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Murray Kinsella

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