“I thought, ‘fair play to him’. Of all the times he’s been in my ear, of all the hard times he’s given me on the pitch, you’re forgiven there and then.”
Nigel Owens has recalled the classy gesture Ronan O’Gara made towards him after Munster defeated Northampton in the Heineken Cup back in 2011.
Ronan O’Gara and Peter Stringer
Nevertheless, the Welsh official will continue to referee in the Pro14 until the end of this season.
“Definitely! ROG and Stringer, oh, when you had to referee the two of them together,” Owens replied.
“I always got on well with the both of them though. I have a huge amount of respect for them, but they made my days hard on occasions.”
Munster Northampton 2011
However, the Welsh referee remembers a gesture O’Gara made to him after Munster’s dramatic victory over Northampton back in 2011, after the Ireland fly-half scored a last-minute drop-goal.
“I remember going to referee Munster against Northampton in the quarter final of the European Cup in Thomond Park,” Owens continued.
“There were 28,000 packed in there. Paul O’Connell was injured, and O’Gara was captain of Munster that day. It was the famous game where there were 40 phases and O’Gara dropped the goal at the end to win the game.”
Owens had been over to referee a Munster game the month before and on the way back had picked up a copy of the Cork native’s autobiography as a Christmas present for his dad.
“I gave it to him, and my dad said, ‘oh, it would be nice if you could get this signed.'”
Ronan O’Gara autobiography.
So after the Northampton game, Owens wanted to get O’Gara’s autobiography signed by the man himself.
“O’Gara came into the changing room and thanked me for the game,” Owens explained.
“He sat down in a chair and I said, ‘So, while you’re here, do you mind signing this for my dad? I bought it for Christmas’. ‘Yeah, of course,’ he replied.
“He sat down and chatted away. He signed the book, then off he went.”
However, it wasn’t until after Owens had returned to Wales that he realised what O’Gara had written.
“I went back and gave my dad the book. But, I hadn’t looked in it. Dad looked inside and he said, “have you seen what he’s written in here?”
“I thought, ‘oh Christ, what’s he written in there now?’
“He’d written, ‘To Geraint, hope you enjoy reading the book and you can be very, very proud of what your son has achieved on and off the pitch. Ronan O’Gara.’
“I thought, ‘well fair play to him’. Of all the times he’s been in my ear, of all the hard times he’s given me on the pitch, you’re forgiven there and then.”