New Zealand tour
Munster lay claim to another piece of history
November 30, 2008
Munster's Federico Pucciariello (R) reacts with team mates after being defeated 18-16 by New Zealand at the end of their match at Thomond Park in Limerick on on November 18, 2008.
Munster came agonisingly close to shocking the All Blacks again earlier this month © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Barry Murphy

Barry Murphy will never be held in the same esteem as the Munstermen of 1978, the conquerors of Graham Mourie's pioneering Grand Slam winners.

But the unheralded Irishman can at least savour one unique achievement as Graham Henry's unbeaten All Blacks go their separate ways today. The Munster wing was the only player to score a try against New Zealand during their five-match European tour.

Murphy succeeded where the likes of International Rugby Board player of the year Shane Williams failed for Wales, when he crossed untouched from a perfectly executed short side move at Thomond Park Stadium in Limerick on November 18. His try gave Munster a surprise 16-10 halftime lead and hinted that history could repeat itself on the 30th anniversary of Munster's famous 12-0 victory.

But Joe Rokocoko, who has not scored a test try since his hat-trick in the World Cup pool match against Romania in September last year, completed the most important attacking movement of the tour when he evaded former teammate Doug Howlett to give the All Blacks a winning 18-16 lead two minutes from fulltime. Rokocoko's becalming on 43 test tries despite playing all four tests in Britain and Ireland illustrated the blunting of New Zealand's offensive arsenal, although their visits to Murrayfield, Croke Park, the Millennium Stadium and Twickenham still yielded a dozen tries.

Still, this tour will be remembered for resolute defence as the All Blacks showed a desperate determination to avoid assembling behind their goalposts. Scotland battered away for seven minutes within the vicinity of the goalposts while Anthony Boric was in the sinbin on November 8, to no avail.

Ireland never threatened to score a try a week later while Wales lock Alun-Wyn Jones lost the ball over the line in Cardiff. His miss rates alongside that of English No.8 Nick Easter, who was denied a certain try yesterday by Mils Muliaina's outstretched fingertips and then some scrambling defence.

Easter was bearing down on the tryline one minute after halftime when he was ankle-tapped by the All Blacks fullback 5m short of glory. England retained the ball but could not cross despite a two-minute siege relieved only when possession was turned over.

Muliaina, who then scored two of the All Blacks' three tries, said the team's defensive fortitude was a highlight of the tour.

"It's an outstanding stat, not conceding a try in four tests," he said. "That's a credit to our defence and the way we didn't really infringe. We backed our D (defence) and backed our systems. That's really pleasing, another great thing to be able to go home and celebrate."


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