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How Rory Best's final Dublin bow reminded of all he has achieved with one more piece of Ireland history still in the making

 

Rory Best is joined by his wife Jodie after his final appearance at the Aviva Stadium
Rory Best is joined by his wife Jodie after his final appearance at the Aviva Stadium
End game: Joe Schmidt and Rory Best in Aviva farewell
Ireland captain Rory Best, with his children Ben (left), Penny and Richie after winning his last home match after the Guinness Summer Series match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. PA Photo. Picture date: Saturday September 7, 2019. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. No commercial or promotional use without prior consent from IRFU. No alterations or doctoring
DUBLIN, IRELAND - SEPTEMBER 07: Rory Best of Ireland is given a guard of honour on his last game at the Aviva following the Guinness Summer Series match between Ireland and Wales at Aviva Stadium on September 7, 2019 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - SEPTEMBER 07: Rory Best of Ireland is embraced by his children following his last game at the Aviva during the Guinness Summer Series match between Ireland and Wales at Aviva Stadium on September 7, 2019 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Ireland captain Rory Best waves to the fans after winning his last home match.
Ireland's captain Rory Best (C), having played his final game in Dublin, greets well-wishers following the warm-up rugby union Test match between Ireland and Wales at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on September 7, 2019. (Photo by Paul Faith / AFP)PAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Ireland captain Rory Best leaves the pitch with his children and team-mates after winning his last home match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Brian Lawless/PA Wire.
DUBLIN, IRELAND - SEPTEMBER 07: Rory Best of Ireland is embraced by his wife following his last game at the Aviva during the Guinness Summer Series match between Ireland and Wales at Aviva Stadium on September 7, 2019 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

When Rory Best first took to the Aviva Stadium pitch, he did so with family by his side. On Saturday, he left it for a final time the same way.

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Scrummaging alongside brother Simon on debut all the way back in 2005, this weekend's emotional farewell was one for the whole clan.

As soon as the final whistle blew on the 19-10 win over Wales, cameramen and photographers swarmed around the soon to be retired captain as he did the rounds, stopping to check on the health of Welsh fly-half Rhys Patchell and briefly getting reacquainted with some of his old Lions team-mates.

There was no dodging the inevitable though, the IRFU's media man soon shepherding him in front of a microphone.

"I said I wasn't going to get emotional," he began before the responses being boomed out across the Aviva's PA system were drowned out by another wave of cheers from the crowd forgoing the usual rush for the exit and a prime spot at the bar.

Far from the first of the day, the Aviva Stadium had shown its appreciation for the 37-year-old throughout the afternoon, starting when the teams were read out and reaching a crescendo when the roar that greeted his substitution exceeded that for the try that had come moments prior.

"These moments are made special by your team, by your family and by so many people," he said.

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"I can still remember coming off the bench (on his first cap) and coming down into the corner here into a scrum alongside my brother [Simon]. Those are the things you remember, the little bits and pieces, the trips to the stadium on the bus, the moments after the games when you look around the stadium and everyone's wrecked, when you've given your all for this jersey.

"This place has given me some wonderful memories, some ones that you have had to use to try and be better and to get that reception from the supporters here it's nice for my mum and dad, my young family and my wife to be in there and to hear that.

"It's nice to see that over a fairly long period of time you have done more things right than not and to get that appreciation is lovely. Ultimately it was about making sure that we were able to build on last week. It's nice to get the standing ovation and the applause but the performance and the result was far more important than that."

It's been a difficult month for the Irish captain, coming in for more than his share of the criticism after his side's record defeat in Twickenham some three weeks ago. A handful of his more vocal detractors even called for a change of captain on the eve of the World Cup.

Resiliency has always been among his most valuable attributes though and the punters on Saturday are certainly still backing their skipper.

There was an audible groan when the first two line-outs went astray but, once James Ryan began calling the ball on himself thereafter, things went smoother and there was even a trademark turnover of old thrown into the first half too.

Ultimately though this was a day to be remembered not for the result or performance but the reception.

When all was said and done, the confidence-building win secured, nearby stood his children, now old enough to carry such memories forever. Penny and Ben, the latter of whom still has his dad pencilled in as a Lions tourist to South Africa in a few years time, took everything in, gazing up at the stands and the applause being showered down upon their father.

Youngest Richie enjoyed the freedom of the Aviva, hoisted into the air by Rob Kearney, shadow-boxing with Tadhg Furlong and high-fiving Rhys Ruddock as he buzzed around the pitch.

He even followed his dad through the guard of honour formed once media duties were fulfilled and the Aviva crowd belatedly began to filter out into the Dublin evening.

Best once joked that he shouldn't need to have his photo taken so often, the decision to shave his head all those years ago meaning his visage has remained fairly consistent for more than a decade.

Saturday though offered compelling evidence of just how much he's changed. 14 years ago he came onto the scene as Simon's wee brother. The ovation he received this weekend a timely reminder of all he's achieved since.

Who knows? There may be one more piece of history still to come.

IRELAND: R Kearney, K Earls, R Henshaw, B Aki, J Larmour; J Sexton, C Murray; C Healy, R Best (c), T Furlong; J Ryan, J Kleyn; CJ Stander, J van der Flier, J Conan.

REPLACEMENTS: S Cronin (for Best, 52), D Kilcoyne (for Healy, 40), A Porter (for Furlong, 56), I Henderson (for Kleyn, 52), R Ruddock (for van der Flier, 58), L McGrath (for Murray, 71), J Carty (for Sexton, 63), G Ringrose (for Earls, 52).

WALES: L Halfpenny; G North, J Davies, H Parkes, J Adams; R Patchell, T Williams; W Jones, E Dee, T Francis; J Ball, AW Jones; A Wainwright, J Tipuric, R Moriarty.

REPLACEMENTS: K Owens (for Dee, 59), N Smith (for W Jones, 59(, D Lewis (for Francis, 59), A Beard, J Navidi (for Moriarty, 68), G Davies (for Williams, 69(, D Biggar (for Patchell, 23), L Williams (for Halfpenny, 65)

REFEREE: M Raynal (FRA)

MAN OF THE MATCH: James Ryan

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