‘Incredible’ Sam Whitelock enjoys fitting end to hall of fame career after remarkable final act

Colin Newboult
All Blacks legend Sam Whitelock, who celebrated a try in the final minute of his career for Pau.

All Blacks legend Sam Whitelock, who celebrated a try in the final minute of his career for Pau.

One of the greats of the game, Sam Whitelock, bowed out in fine style on Saturday, scoring with the last act of his career.

With Pau failing to make the Top 14 play-offs, the clash with Perpignan was effectively a dead-rubber, but the legendary second-row still managed to go out with a bang.

His team secured a 36-24 triumph on the final day of the season with the lock going over for the game’s final try.

Wonderful end to a wonderful career

Jack Maddocks, Theo Attissogbe and Emilien Gailleton had already touched down when they earned a lineout five metres from the line in the latter stages of the contest.

Of course, it was the great All Black who won the ball at the top and set up a maul which charged towards the line.

It was brought down just short but that allowed Whitelock to get back to his feet and take a pass from scrum-half Dan Robson to cross the whitewash.

He celebrated by pumping his fist but, before he was able to get up, Whitelock was jumped on by Robson and his other Pau team-mates, who mobbed the former All Black.

The try was an apt way for the second-row to end his career, although some wondered whether he still had at least a year left in him given his performances since joining the club.

Whitelock initially signed on a one-year deal but had the option of extending it by an extra season. However, he ultimately decided to retire to spend more time with his family.

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“When a great man like that decides these things, we can only be admiring,” head coach Sebastien Piqueronies said after the match.

“He has always decided how he wants to lead his career. On Saturday, he got up and decided to be good.”

Centre Nathan Decron added: “We were good on the defensive rucks in the first half, where we managed a lot of counter-rucks. Beka (Gorgadze) and Sam were incredible at this level.”

Hall of fame career

Whitelock announced his retirement from the game in April, deciding against taking up Scott Robertson’s reported offer to return to New Zealand for their upcoming Test campaign.

After 153 caps – the most for the All Blacks and second only to Alun Wyn Jones overall – the forward decided that the 2023/24 season would be his last.

Whitelock won the Rugby World Cup twice – in 2011 and 2015 – and played in a further two global tournaments in 2019 and 2023. He will undoubtedly go down as one of the sport’s greatest ever players.

The 35-year-old joined Pau following the World Cup in France and was unsurprisingly a regular starter in the Top 14 as his side came a respectable ninth, finishing just two points off the play-off places.

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