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Monday, June 25, 2012
There was a depressing sense of déjà vu when Rory Best walked out to face the music after Saturday night’s debacle.
When Ireland were comprehensively put to the sword by Wales in the quarter-final of last year’s World Cup, it was Best who arrived out first to talk to the Irish press.
Nine months ago underneath the Westpac Stadium in Wellington, the Ulster hooker wore the same haunted expression. The post-match scene in Hamilton was all too familiar, but this time it seemed to hurt so much more.
Ireland were not so much outplayed last Saturday night, they were dismantled by a ferocious All Blacks outfit and Best admitted that the 60-0 drubbing was a dark day in his career.
"Nobody is overly pleased with what happened," he said. "That Ireland shirt deserves a lot more than we have given. There’s not one person who turned up tonight that is not bitterly disappointed with what happened."
In what has been a massively difficult three weeks for this Irish team, Best has been one of the shining lights on an otherwise nightmare tour.
His tenacity, work-rate and commitment was matched only by a select few, and the Ulster man admitted he was still getting his head around the traumatic events in Hamilton.
"To not only be ‘nilled’ but to concede a record score is not how you want to end this season or this tour," said Best. "It’s most humiliating. It’s an honour to play for Ireland and when you turn up and do that… what can you say? it is embarrassing.
"Walking off the pitch with your head down and now we have to front up, answer questions about that and quite rightly so."
After going toe-to-toe with the All Blacks in the second test, Best and his teammates simply failed to show up in Hamilton. It’s been well documented at this stage how long this season has been added to the weight of casualties this team have picked up.
"I think it would be a bit rich after a stuffing like that if we turned around and used it as an excuse," said Best on Ireland’s long season. "We have been using it as a positive all tour, we felt good, we have been very well managed, we felt fresh and we were very well looked after this week.
"I know it has been a long hard season but that was by no means why we lost that game so convincingly."
Best and his teammates now have the summer off to digest the events of the past few weeks, and you get the feeling there will be many night’s of soul-searching after this beating.
"They just went after us physically and battered us," he explained. "Especially our defence, we fell off tackles, bounced off tackles, gave up soft yards around the fringes, which isn’t what we are about. It’s something we pride ourselves on…and it wasn’t there."
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