Conor Murray, one of the few players in the British and Irish Lions squad to have experienced a win over the All Blacks, effectively kicked the Crusaders to death in Christchurch and is looming as a key man in the test series.

The high balls kept the Crusaders on the back foot and were the perfect, pragmatic, tactic for the conditions which were extremely slippery under foot.

Murray's kicking was no surprise to the Crusaders. They had prepared for it all week. The surprise was that they duffed so many and looked so ill at ease when they have shown almost supernatural composure during their undefeated Super Rugby season.

It was probably an indicator of what was a stake here; not competition points, but a prized scalp after watching the Blues roll over the top of the Lions at Eden Park three days previously.


It was Murray, the Munster halfback, who created the tempo in tandem with first-five Owen Farrell and the pair are looming as the test halves combination. Whether similar kicking tactics get the same results against the All Blacks at Eden Park on June 24 remains to be seen, but they were spot on in this 12-3 victory.

It was a match in which the so-called "Warrenball" direct and physical strategy of coach Warren Gatland worked perfectly, and make no mistake, this was a win he and his squad badly needed.

Significantly, he admitted as much afterwards. As for Murray, he was right to be satisfied with his performance and there were others in red worthy of praise too - men such as loose forwards Toby Faletau and Sean O'Brien, with hooker Jamie George and prop Mako Vunipolo good as well.

"There were mistakes but some really good stuff as well and opportunities created," Murray said. "We need to finish a few now. The excitement is there that we can bust teams and that's really pleasing. It's good to get back to winning ways and we've improved on the last game as well so it's positive."

The Lions also defended with an intensity and resolve which appeared to catch the Crusaders by surprise and conceded only seven penalties. Both of these parts of their game were far better than in Whangarei or Auckland.

"There were 29 penalties in two games and you can't expect to win games playing like that," Murray said. "We improved on that and we played in the right areas. We defended well. Their stats are incredibly impressive - they average about 30 points or so a game this season."

Crusaders and All Blacks lock Luke Romano said the line speed was something that some of the red and black backs had never experienced before.

"We haven't played under that sort of intensity in Super Rugby so that's good for us when we look at what's coming up," said Romano, eyeing the Hurricanes in his team's final round-robin match on July 15. "To have a loss now is a hell of a lot better than losing one of our next ones.


"I've played a lot of test footy and I didn't find it too uncomfortable out there. If you talk to those who haven't, they would have found it a lot faster and more physical than Super Rugby. But so it should be - they [Lions] are all international players."

As for Murray, he could afford to smile about his collision with fullback Stuart Hogg which left his teammate with a bleeding head and an early shower.

"I'm rooming with him at the moment," Murray said. "I'll have to make him a few cups of tea for sure. We had a little laugh about it but I definitely owe him one."