Sports

Strabane boy's 'selfie' with top rugby ref goes viral

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Strabane boy's 'selfie' with top rugby ref goes viral thumbnailThe 'selfie' picture of Strabane teenager, Gareth Duncan, and Welsh rugby referee, Nigel Owens' from the Ireland versus Australia match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin.

A YOUNG Strabane rugby fan is to receive a piece of sporting memorabilia as a result of a viral 'selfie' photo taken with the arguably best referee in the game, Nigel Owens, at the Ireland versus Australia game in the Aviva Stadium on Saturday night.

Strabane Academy pupil Gareth Duncan was at the stadium during a trip with the school's rugby squad. The Strabane Academy lads were positioned near the sideline where the Welsh referee was officiating. During the warm-up, Gareth and his friends shouted for a 'selfie' with Owens, and the referee showed his lighter side by posing with a cheeky smile and gesture, much to the amusement of the boys.

Ireland went on to win the game 27-24, with the victory marking the first time the side have beaten the 'big three' southern hemisphere teams, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia, in one calendar year. The night was also special for Ireland Skipper and Ulster player, Rory Best, who won his 100th cap in the green jersey.

It wasn't until later on the bus home when he was looking at the photo that Gareth realised how brilliant the photo was

"Gareth and the lads had a good laugh at the photo, and he posted it up online," said Gareth's father, Austin. "Within a minute it had 100 likes. By the next morning, it had 2,000."

Since then the picture has shared by a number of websites including walesonline.com, balls.ie and rugbylad.com, and has been seen over 20,000 times.

"It's went totally viral, and got a lot of attention," said Austin. "Gareth has become a bit of a classroom star. A lot of the lads are calling him "Nige" now."

Owens himself was also impressed with the photo, sharing it a number of times on his own Twitter page and posting a plea online to find out who took it. Gareth contacted the referee back, and was delighted to find out that Owen's wanted to send the young Strabane lad his referee's jersey from the night.

"Nigel got in contact with Gareth, and they had a chat on the phone. Nigel got his details and is sending his jersey. Gareth is delighted about it."

Austin said that Owens is not as stern and serious as he appears when he takes charge of the biggest games in world rugby

"He was joking away with the lads during the warm-up. He's much better value than you'd think, definitely not your typical rugby ref."

Owens himself recounted the story of the funny picture after the game, and paid tribute to Gareth and his friends for enjoying the 'banter'.

"You seen the picture doing social media with the boys shouting 'Give us a wave, Nige'.

All in good fun, though, and they all laughed. Good rugby banter and how it should be.

"I'm trying to get hold of him and will post him my match day ref jersey from the game yesterday for being such a great sport, and the timing of the picture."

Austin said the jersey will be a memento of a fantastic occasion. "Gareth doesn't actually know what he'll do with it when he gets it. He'll probably get it framed along with the photo. It'll be a great thing to have given the night it was, with Ireland's win and Rory Best's 100th cap."

Gareth and his team-mates will be hoping the jersey and the experience will inspire them onto victory when they take on Carrickfergus Grammar at home in the first round of the 2016-17 Danske Bank Schools' Cup this Saturday, December 3.

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