Six Nations 2019: Best admits Ireland had to dig deep
Ireland captain Rory Best credited his team’s mental strength in defeating Scotland 22-13 to end the hosts’ seven-match unbeaten home Six Nations run and putting behind them the opening weekend loss to England.
The 36-year-old hooker – who along with his team-mates put in a considerably better performance than in the 32-20 defeat by the English in Dublin – said it had been a challenging week but they had come through.
“We have a lot of belief in what we’re doing and how good a team we are,” Best told the BBC.
“That was a really tough game, and it was tough mentally in the build-up to it.
“We asked for a physical reaction and by and large we got that. We had a couple of chances and we took them and were quite clinical. We’ve got a lot of improving to do.”
Best, who has skippered the Irish to two wins over world champions New Zealand and the Six Nations Grand Slam last year, specially praised Joey Carbery, who came on after 24 minutes for the injured world player of the year Johnny Sexton.
The New Zealand-born fly-half – who moved to Munster last year after being an understudy to Sexton at Leinster – made a nervy start with his pass being intercepted leading to Scotland’s try at the end of the first-half.
However, a superb burst from inside his own-half created Ireland’s third try, veteran Keith Earls touching down, which he converted and he added a well-taken penalty later in the second half to give the Irish some breathing space.
“Joey Carbery has flourished since moving to Munster and starting regularly,” said Best.
“We trust the players to come off the bench and step up as Joey did.”
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt also praised Carbery for his character in recovering from the intercepted pass.
However, he was not too happy about the treatment handed out to Sexton.
“Johnny Sexton got a bit of treatment out there and he got a stamp on the head but he is feeling better and we expect him to be back in the next couple of weeks,” the 53-year-old told the BBC.
Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw made clear his displeasure at the performance of French referee Romain Poite, who he would know well as the scrum-half plays for French giants Clermont.
“Romain Poite picked us up in the middle of the field, Sean O’Brien’s cleared the ball out and he’s given a knock-on right in front of him,” Laidlaw told BBC.
“He doesn’t seem to like us, Romain. He refereed us against South Africa as well and we don’t seem to see eye-to-eye.
“We’re not going to blame him, we look at ourselves, and credit to Ireland.”
Scottish hooker Stuart McInally was more gracious in defeat praising the Irish for their resolute defence.
“We were too knackered, we couldn’t really string a few phases together,” said McInally.
“That’s credit to the Irish team, they put us under heaps of pressure, but we’ll work hard and try and be better.
“We felt really good in defence, marched them back numerous times then they scored two really cheap tries.”