All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw felt a lump in his throat as he left the field to a standing ovation near the end of the All Blacks’ 41-13 thumping of the Wallabies at Eden Park.
As McCaw was subbed off on Saturday night with victory well in hand, the capacity 48,450 crowd rose to acknowledge the openside flanker’s world record 142nd Test appearance and his last on home soil.
“I’m probably not a guy who gets too emotional but there was a big lump in my throat, I tell you,” he said.
“It’s hard to explain. I didn’t want it to stop, that moment. It’s a memory that you’ll always have. Even to talk about it now, you get a shiver down your spine.”
While there might have been a bit spoken and written during the week about his impending feat, McCaw said his own focus in the build-up was ensuring he and the team fronted up so the Bledisloe Cup stayed on this side of the Tasman.
“I was really keen to get stuck in and play well and did a reasonable job of that, I thought,” he said.
“Sitting on the side near the end and we were up a bit by points, I had a big grin on my face because they are the moments you play this game for. To get a personal achievement like that tops it off.”
The mark that the 34-year-old McCaw eclipsed was held by former Ireland centre Brian O’Driscoll, who was among those to offer their congratulations.
O’Driscoll tweeted: “Huge congrats to Richie McCaw in becoming the most capped Test player of all time. No one could be more deserving. #142”
The Test was also the last in New Zealand for other long-serving All Blacks in prop Tony Woodcock, hooker Keven Mealamu, five-eighth Dan Carter and midfield backs Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith.
Coach Steve Hansen paid tribute to the group, saying each of them had been great servants to New Zealand rugby.
Carter, Nonu and Smith, who are all heading to French clubs after the World Cup, were among the stand-outs of a dominant All Blacks performance, with Hansen also giving credit to the go-forward his side got up front.
Carter had been in the spotlight for his display in the All Blacks’ 27-19 defeat in Sydney seven days earlier and he responded in style.
“He was special, wasn’t he? He was the Dan Carter of old,” Hansen said.
“He’s got a smile on his face as wide as the Grand Canyon because he knows he has done the job and he’s done it under pressure.
“He has been questioned by a lot of people and he’s gone out and played a really good game of rugby.”