Ulster’s Rory Best reckoned that in terms of intensity, physicality and excitement, Saturday’s Wales-Ireland clash at the Millennium Stadium “probably had everything”.
The Irish hooker said: “I’m sure the spectators in the ground and those watching it at home on television will have found it very entertaining to watch.”
Away from the delights of the game as a spectacle, however, Best was concerned at another defeat and the fact that something of a pattern appears to be emerging.
“I suppose it’s really the third time this season that it has happened. South Africa, if you think back, we had a late charge there as well, so obviously we’re disappointed that yet again we’ve had a bit of a lull for 20 minutes in the middle of the second half where teams score points against us.”
France, too, had a period when they put points on the board, as did Scotland. Wales kept the trend going.
“We lifted our game when our backs were to the wall, but to leave it that late away from home against a good team was tough.
“Again we had a chance so we’re just disappointed that we didn’t put it away,” Best admitted.
Despite having lost two of their four RBS Six Nations Championship matches to date — and with England in Dublin on Saturday, completing Ireland’s 2011 programme in the series — Best remains convinced that Declan Kidney’s men are close to being a successful and attractive-to-watch team.
He contends:“I think we’re very close. Now obviously it’s easy for us all to say that when we’re standing here, but look at the positives; our defence again has been good. We’ve conceded only one dubious try so we’ve been pretty watertight in the Six Nations.
“Against that we have been scoring tries, so I suppose we just need to try and focus. We got a good start, we eased back a bit, then we went again, then we eased back.
“We’re allowing teams into it when possibly we should have a bit more of a killer-instinct and be trying to put them away,” Best suggested.
“It’s not that we’re intentionally letting teams into it; it’s just the way it is so I suppose the next step for us is to put together a good 80-minute performance.
“We’re playing a good brand of rugby, we’re scoring tries and not conceding too many and I think our discipline was probably a lot better here than it has been. But we need to do it for 80 minutes.”
Looking ahead, he pointed out that Saturday’s game against England will be Ireland’s last of the season.
“With no summer tour, it’s our last home game so we’ll want to finish on a high. We know England are a very good side and they’re on a bit of a roll at the minute.
“But we’ll be looking to re-group and do what we always do which is to take positives from our previous performance — and there were many of those out there in the Millennium..
“We’ll take the negatives, too, try to correct them and make the positives even more positive for us,” Best said.
Minutes after the final whistle the hooker had begun the process of rebuilding his own battered pride and a bruised ego, those wounds courtesy of the Welsh. Best made no bones about it; it had been another very hard evening’s work.
“Internationals are always tough, especially away from home, and Wales are a very good side who have been building after losing their opening match against England.
“That’s three in a row they have won now so they are making progress. We believe we are, too, but we need to get back to winning games,” he agreed.