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Murphy And Henry Praise Team-Mates

Murphy And Henry Praise Team-Mates

There was no win to crown Geordan Murphy’s first time captaining his country, but the full-back was still proud of Ireland’s collective performance in their 31-28 defeat to New Zealand Maori.

It was a proud moment in Geordan Murphy’s long and successful career as he led Ireland into battle against New Zealand Maori in Rotorua.

The skilful full-back played the captain’s role to a tee, leading by example as he helped the tourists recover from the concession of two early tries.

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He also showed his attacking class as it was his half break, in the opening moments of the second half, which set up centre Paddy Wallace for Ireland’s only try.

Speaking after Friday’s closely-contested game, Murphy said: “We gave ourselves a bit of a mountain to climb at the start, when we went 18-3 down. Full credit to the boys, we stuck with it and grafted hard.

“We possibly could have scored a couple of tries in the first half, but the Maori were pretty smart about slowing the ball down.

“Full credit to them, they played very well in the second half and deserved their win.

“But I think there are some positives we can take from this performance. We came back into game and ultimately it was our mistakes that cost us (the win).

“It’s difficult. Maybe in the second half we got a little bit too loose. We possibly should have played a few more phases and hit the ball up. I think we got sucked into the Maori’s game a little bit.”

Although the result did not go Ireland’s way, with the influential Jonathan Sexton unfortunate to miss a late penalty, the good certainly outweighed the bad for Declan Kidney’s men.

With their focus now switching to next Saturday’s Test against Australia, Ireland’s pool opponents at next year’s Rugby World Cup, Murphy says that competition for starting places is really hotting up.

“A lot of the guys who went out there tonight had their eyes on Test spots next week. Some of the guys played well and obviously that will make things difficult for the coach,” he added.

One such player is Chris Henry who, twelve months on from starring at the Churchill Cup, is hoping to win his first senior cap against the Wallabies.

The Ulster number 8 put in a workmanlike display against the Maori, impressing alongside Munster’s Niall Ronan and Ireland Under-20 captain Rhys Ruddock, who thoroughly enjoyed his first experience of senior international rugby.

It was a big ask of the 19-year-old Ruddock and the Irish back row trio, coming up against a Maori unit that included All Blacks Liam Messam and Tanerau Latimer. But for most observers, it was advantage Ireland in this crucial area.

“Their back row we knew was going to be a real threat for us and we chatted before about working together, the three of us,” explained the highly-rated Henry, who has captained both Ulster and the Ireland Wolfhounds this past season.

“I thought Rhys, for a guy so young, was outstanding. To be thrown in at that level and do so well, I was really impressed and obviously Niall played his usual game.

“We’ll see how this week goes, I’m desperate to get on the pitch and get that first cap but we’ll see what the coaches go for (against Australia).”

The 25-year-old, who won three Ulster Rugby Awards recently, was pleased that Ireland were able to kick on from last weekend’s disappointing loss to the All Blacks.

He put the improved play down to simple hard work and good preparation, specifically in defence (line speed) and contact situations (leg strength).

“Definitely, it was something we worked hard on. We targeted the rucks as well and putting the pressure on and I think it was good improvement from last week.

“Now we need to really throw ourselves into that next week because it’s a huge challenge against Australia and we need to take another step forward.”