A 27-24 win after a thrilling match against Australia in Dublin on Saturday evening was the perfect way for Ireland to finish the November Guinness Test series and the rugby calendar year.
Ireland created history not only by beating the back-to-back World champions New Zealand four weeks previously for the first time in Chicago but became only the second European team since 2003 to win against all three Southern Hemisphere teams in the same calendar year.
In the summer tour of South Africa, Ireland won for the first time away to the Springboks.
And on Saturday in the electric atmosphere of a packed Aviva Stadium they beat last year’s World Cup runners-up, Australia, to complete the ‘mini Slam’.
Central to all of that was Banbridge’s Rory Best.
He led the team on each occasion.
The Ireland captain was given a rapturous reception when he ran on with two of his children, Ben and Penny, to mark the occasion of his 100th cap for his country.
The 34-year-old became only the fifth Irish player to do so and is the first Ulster player to reach the milestone.
The ovation he received when substituted four minutes from the end of a pulsating match reflected the standing he has across the island in the sport.
His Australian counterpart, Steven Moore, also paid tribute to Best in the post-match, which adds to the case for the Banbridge man to be not only included in the British & Irish Lions tour of New Zealand next year but backs up Ireland assistant coach Andy Farrell’s call for Best to be a contender for the captaincy.
In his usual modest fashion, Best, accepting it was an emotional day and a special week for him and his family personally, paid tribute to the coaching staff and, more importantly, the players around him in the squad who put in the graft to make November 2016 one of the most remarkable months in Irish rugby history.
Best admitted he was delighted to end an emotional week with a vital victory.
“There’s something special in these last 12 months: we’ve worked really hard on guys being thrown into difficult situations,” said Best.
“The way the week has gone and with the injury disappointment of last week, we talked about losing those guys early in the week, then losing Sean so late, you just hope the squad steps up.
“It was obviously a very emotional day for me, because they’re such a great bunch of guys to captain.
“It’s obviously very special and very emotional to get to this stage.
“To do it and do it at home at the Aviva Stadium is incredibly special.
“This week it’s shown me why Ireland rugby is such a great place to be around.”
Australia captain Moore also acknowledged Best’s achievements.
“It’s important with everything else that went on in the game to mark what’s a great achievement for him personally,” said Moore of Best.
“It’s full credit to him for all the hard work he’s put in over his career, and he deserved that tonight.”