Six Nations 2019: Wales 'came after us' admits Ireland captain Rory Best
It was not meant to end like this for Rory Best.
The Ireland captain hopes to finish his career at the World Cup in Japan but he will not remember his final Six Nations appearance with any fondness.
Wales swept to a Grand Slam with an irresistible performance that simply blew their opponents away.
Ireland were a pale shadow of the side that beat all comers in 2018 as they foundered under the waves of red jerseys and the Cardiff rain clouds.
Joe Schmidt's side surrendered their title with barely a whimper on a memorable evening at the Principality Stadium.
The home team finished on top in virtually every facet of the game while Ireland made a series of uncharacteristic mistakes and conceded 11 penalties as they struggled to find an answer to a fired-up Welsh side that dominated from the opening kick.
"Wales had a cracking start and they built into the game. They are a very good side, a determined side and they are very hard to beat here at the Principality Stadium and we just couldn't get a footing," Best conceded after he was replaced with 16 minutes remaining.
"Obviously our set-piece wasn't up to the standards that we expect and they came after us. They put a lot of pressure on us and we struggled to respond."
The disappointing display in Cardiff was the final, crushing blow of an underwhelming Six Nations campaign for Ireland that began with a devastating loss to England before a series of underwhelming performances against Scotland and Italy.
The round-four win over France had raised hopes of a return to form and the slim possibility of back-to-back titles but the out-going champions were unable to mask their dip in form against a Welsh side that have now won a record 14 consecutive Tests.
"It's a very competitive Six Nations and we've lost to two very very good sides so we'll have to go away and address why we lost and how we can get better," Best continued.
"We always strive to get better and we haven't done that, we've been a little inconsistent in this championship and we'll have to dust ourselves off and try to finish the calendar year strongly."
Ireland will now hope to rediscover their 2018 form with a series of warm-up matches against Italy, England and Wales before their opening World Cup match against Scotland at Yokohama on 22 September.