Cameron Murray has paid tribute to the Australian forward pack, claiming their work through the middle against New Zealand allowed him to score what ultimately turned out to be the match-winning try in their 16-14 victory at the Rugby League World Cup.
“It was a result of how much work we put into their middle. I thought our front-rowers knocked the door down really well and we got a result off the back of that,” Murray told Fox League post-match.
The South Sydney captain endured a shaky start to the second half, dropping the ball inside the Kiwis’ 20m zone with a fresh set in the offing and then taking exception to Isaiah Papali’i’s reaction in a tackle on Nathan Cleary that forced an error.
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Murray engaged in a scuffle with the backrower which sparked an all-in melee and was penalised for instigating the incident.
Although good scramble defence from the Aussies spared his blushes, before he then scored his crucial try moments later.
“We knew it was going to be a tough night out here and it definitely lived up to the hype,” he said.
“We talked about putting fatigue in them and we’d get the results off the back of that.
“I think that try at the end there was a reward for how much work we put into their defensive line when we kept them down in their try line area.
“It doesn’t really matter how you score, it just matters that you get it. I was lucky enough to go over. It’ll be one to look back on.”
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Cleary’s inside ball to Isaah Yeo looked to have cracked New Zealand’s resolve, but the Penrith lock was chopped down by a desperate tackle from Brandon Smith.
However, the resulting play-the-ball was sloppy and referee Ashley Klein blew a penalty for the Aussies.
This time Smith wasn’t up to the task defensively as he slipped off the tackle on Murray, with the No.11 going in beside the posts for his fourth try of the tournament.
It was poor defensively from Smith and he cut a disconsolate figure after the final whistle, knowing his lack of focus and effort in defence had proved costly.
— Rugby League World Cup 2021 (@RLWC2021) November 11, 2022
“At this level that’s not acceptable,” Leon Pryce said on commentary.
“It’s a straight up one out carry from a tap and two missed soft tackles- they’ll be really disappointed with that one.”
Australia trailed at half time 14-10 but kept the Kiwis scoreless in an impressive defensive performance in the second stanza, locking up the ball better and cutting out the offloads from New Zealand that had caused them plenty of issues.
“Since the start of the camp, we’ve talked about working really hard for each other and I thought we did that towards the end there,” Murray said.
“We probably made it a little hard for ourselves, but our reserves were good, and everyone kept moving in defence. The scramble was good, and we were able to get the result.”
Murray went down the tunnel towards the end of the game yet confirmed it was nothing serious and he would be playing in the final next week against either England or Samoa.
“It’s been a long year, so there’s a few niggles here and there but it’s the same as everyone,” he said.
“I got through the game really well and the body is feeling good, so I’m excited about next week.”