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Best 'physically exhausted, mentally ecstatic' after leading second Irish win over All Blacks

‘It’s another little bit of history that this squad has managed to etch out for itself.’

Best and the bench celebrate victory.
Best and the bench celebrate victory.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Sean Farrell reports from the Aviva Stadium

RORY BEST COULDN’T quite pick a favourite win as captain against New Zealand. And that’s a hell of a nice position to be in.

The Ulster stalwart was the first Ireland captain to claim a victory against the All Blacks, breaking a 111-year hoodoo in Chicago. And tonight, he doubled the personal and national tally, leading Ireland to a gritty 16-9 success over the back-to-back world champions.

“They’re both firsts for us,” Best said, noting the history of New Zealand’s first defeat to Ireland in Ireland.

“It took a mighty effort to win tonight. They’re a fantastic side. Nine years as world number one and we knew it was going to take a mighty effort from us.

“I’m not going to say it feels better (than Chicago), it definitely doesn’t feel any worse.

“It’s hard to know what it feels like at the minute. You’re physically exhausted, but mentally you’re absolutely ecstatic.

“It’s another little bit of history that this squad has managed to etch out for itself.”

For the skipper, the victory was doubly satisfying as his performance serves as a riposte to criticism for his performance against Argentina as he delivered a rock solid line-out and was a powerful presence at the breakdown.

“When you’re a hooker you judge a lot of your performance around the line-out rightly or wrongly. It didn’t go as well as I’d like last week.

“For me it was: block out the pressure and go around doing what I do well for the team, trying to clean a few things and hit a few rucks and be there whenever the team needed. If everyone can do that, then that’s what gives you a good team performance.”

Best will be 37 when the World Cup rolls around next year, but on this performance, he will remain a vital component of a team who is building stronger and stronger credentials ahead of a defining tournament in Japan. 

“When you beat the best team in the world, it takes a big performance. The thing now is that Joe, Simon, Faz and Feeky will expect that to be the standard.

“They’ll expect an improvement next week and after next week when we meet up for the Six Nations.

Rory Best with Ryan Crotty Best carries beyond Crotty. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“The level of preparation and the level of performance that’s expected, that’s how you play better. You try to play better, and when you do, then that’s your minimum and you keep trying to push beyond that and you look at ways to improve.

“It was a great result and a great performance and it’s great to beat the All Blacks on home soil.

“But once the dust settles it will be about moving forward and seeing how we improve and that will be a really good standard for us to hold ourselves accountable to.”

Because one-off wins are no longer a commodity this team trades in.

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Sean Farrell

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