Sam Warburton critical of big Conor Murray decision in Lions defeat
"There's only one man outside the post."
The British & Irish Lions fell to their first defeat of the 2021 tour when they fell to a strong South Africa 'A' side in Cape Town. Sam Warburton took issue with a couple of calls made by Conor Murray.
The Lions were outgunned in the first 30 minutes of the match and were 17-3 behind before the finally got a foothold in the game. Under serious pressure, the hosts gave away four penalties and lost two players to the sin-bin in the space of four minutes.
South Africa 'A', who started with 10 World Cup winners in their XV, defended resolutely on and around their tryline. However, with two players yellow-carded, the Lions knew they needed to get a score to put them in a good position to complete the comeback.
On commentary duty for Sky Sports, former Wales and Lions captain Sam Warburton was critical of Conor Murray for not calling for scrums when his side were awarded penalties.
The Ireland scrumhalf, who took over from Alun Wyn Jones as tour captain, elected for tap-and-go penalties but Warburton felt it was a big mistake. He commented:
"They've got a numerical advantage of two... The Lions needed a strike-play to go wide, or at least take the scrum."
Instead, it was the forwards picking and jamming and the hosts able to fill across the line. Warburton, who captained the Lions in 2013 and 2017, remarked that South Africa 'A' only had one backline player covering from the posts to the far touchline.
As the first half clock ticked into the red, Josh Navidi looked to have got over for a try, but the Television Match Official went against referee Jaco Peyper's 'try' call and South Africa survived. They led 17-3 at the break and went on to win 17-13.
Murray was asked, post-game, about that phase of play, late in the first half. Queried if there had been much debate about what to do with the penalty call after South Africa 'A' were reduced to 13, he responded:
"There was loads of talk. In those situations, you try to listen to those with leadership and experience. The forwards were really confident."
Following the game, Lions head coach Warren Gatland defended Murray and the other on-field leaders. "I was happy with the players and their decisions.
"We wanted to work on that element of our game - that physicality - and to look at using it as an attacking option."
LISTEN TO HOUSE OF RUGBY'S LIONS SERIES: EPISODE 4