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From Joy To Despair For Best

From Joy To Despair For Best

Try-scoring hooker Rory Best, whose 70th Ireland cap was cut short by a fractured forearm, gave a very honest and insightful interview to BBC Northern Ireland’s Stephen Watson as he reflected on the heartbreaking loss to New Zealand.

Rory Best was watching on from the sidelines at the Aviva Stadium when New Zealand replacement Ryan Crotty scored the levelling try in injury-time, denying Ireland their first ever victory over the All Blacks.

The injured hooker – nursing a fractured right forearm – had to endure further disappointment with his team-mates as Aaron Cruden’s retaken conversion edged the visitors to a dramatic 24-22 comeback win.

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Best experienced a range of emotions during his 70th appearance for Ireland, from the joy of his eighth international try and that early 19-0 lead to the pain of his injury and the despair of that late collapse.

He sat down with BBC Northern Ireland sports presenter Stephen Watson on Monday to discuss the final GUINNESS Series game and the next steps for Ireland after coming so close to beating the World champions.



I was making a tackle on the New Zealand number 6 Steven Luatua. As I hit him Paul O’Connell went to hit him as well and just as soon as it happened I heard a bit of a thud, a bit of a crunch. When I looked down, my hand was just hanging limp, I had no real control of it and there was just a throbbing. So I knew straight away.

Unfortunately there was a bit of a while before there was another break in play and the ball went off and I could get a bit of treatment. To be honest, as soon as it happened it was just a matter of time before I had to leave the pitch.


It was a dream start for us. We talked about how disappointed we were against Australia and we didn’t want that to be just words or a good training session on Tuesday and Wednesday and the hurt to be over. We knew we needed to build a lot of passion going into the game and I think we got it.

To score that try…normally my tries are about a yard out and falling over the line, but to actually have to beat somebody!

Tommy (Bowe), of course, was screaming at me to pass to him, but I suppose I got a bit of ‘while line fever’ and probably did what he does best and just went for the line. It was great to score and a great start, but just a disappointing finish.

In terms of a disappointment sporting-wise, it’s probably the biggest disappointment any of us will ever feel in our sporting careers.

When you take into account the history, what was at stake, the position we put ourselves in to win it and then even to go down to the retaken conversion…I don’t think we’ll ever get as big a disappointment on a rugby pitch ever again. It was very, very hard to take.

I was in the changing room at half-time and Johnny (Sexton) was saying, ‘we can’t just sit back, we need to score again’, and it proved out he was bang on. We needed another score in that second half and we weren’t able to get it.

We knew they were going to come back at us, New Zealand are not the best team in the world for no reason. They always look composed, they always looked like they believed they could come back and win it and they just kept chipping away at it.

Unfortunately, we just weren’t able to get the extra couple of points we needed to give us a bit more of a cushion.


It was a devastating loss and it’s going to be hard to get over. We’ll not meet again until just before Christmas when we’ll have a couple of days at a training camp.

To come so close to being the first Ireland team ever to beat New Zealand was something we talked about in the changing room. The Grand Slam (in 2009) was great but a team, in history, had done that before us.

This was a chance to do something that no other player in Ireland had done in the green jersey and that was a massive opportunity.

But I think the one thing it did show us is that when we play to that level of intensity, we’re a very, very hard team to handle.

I think we just happened to be up against the only team in the world that could take that battering in the first half and still believe they could win that.

Probably every other team in the world would have been out the gate at that stage and it would have been a comfortable victory for us. But we have to take those positives from it, although it’s hard to see that at the minute.

It’s something that we’ve talked about with Joe (Schmidt) in the various little mini camps we had leading into November, that consistency is the big Achilles heel of Irish rugby.

It’s important now that that’s a benchmark and it doesn’t just become words – that that actually is the benchmark and that every time you play it becomes more and more special to play for Ireland because you know where you have to go to keep up with everyone else around you.


Sometimes with the Six Nations, you can get preoccupied with where you’re playing England and France, you know, ‘they’re the big games’ or ‘where do we have Wales this year?…there’s a grudge match there’.

I think if we take each game and treat it the way we treated the All Blacks game on Sunday, we’re going to be a very hard team to handle. The pressure needs to be on us to repeat that sort of intensity.

We know under Joe we’re going to get that detail, we’re going to be well-coached and well-drilled and know our stuff.

When you’re dealing with a very talented group of players that know their stuff sometimes you can be a little bit lacking in the passion and ferocity that’s needed – and there’s no doubt against Australia we were lacking that. Against New Zealand we weren’t.

It’s something that Irish teams that maybe weren’t quite as talented as this one is in the past, that’s maybe all they had.

Now, we’ve got all the tactical know-how and maybe we just need to go back to a bit of old-fashioned, you know, we know our game-plan but let’s make sure we can run over and through people if necessary.


I think Paulie (O’Connell) and Brian (O’Driscoll) spoke a lot during the week about the sort of intensity required. Everyone was very aware that it was definitely going to be Brian’s last crack at the All Blacks.

For someone that has achieved so much in rugby, probably the only thing left to achieve outside of winning a World Cup is to beat the All Blacks. We were all well aware of that.

There was also the fact that we let ourselves down so badly against Australia. That really wasn’t a good performance – we still had chances to win it, but we were very much off the beat.

We were probably so preoccupied with making sure we got our stuff right that we forgot about that little bit of passion that I talked about. There was no doubt it (the performance against New Zealand) built all week and a lot of it was driven by Paulie and Brian.


Watching the last couple of minutes and we had the ball, and you’re thinking it seemed to be the slowest minute in history when it ticked from 79, waiting for it to go to 80. You’re just hoping come 80 minutes you still have the ball, because you know if you turn it over they’re very dangerous.

With about 30 seconds left we turned over the ball, and it was just heartbreaking to watch it…you’re just hoping that someone could pull another bit of magic out of the fire. The boys had gone to the well time and time again and they were brilliant. It was just a pity we didn’t have one more big play in us.

To be fair to New Zealand when it really counted and when their backs were really against the wall, they produced a big play and in the end won the game with it.

Then, in the changing room, ach, what do you say? Joe talked about learning lessons. It wasn’t what anyone wanted, but we could have scraped away with a draw.

We already had one charge-down attempt at a kick where (referee) Nigel Owens had waved us away and then to do that again with the last play of the game.

They’re the things that Joe really puts a lot of pressure on – it’s alright to make a mistake, but just don’t make the same mistake. So to do that is very disappointing.

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