Minute's silence for late rugby star

Published Saturday, 22 September 2012
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The sporting community showed their respect for the late rugby star Nevin Spence and his family on Saturday afternoon.

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Ulster player Nevin, his father Noel and brother Graham lost their lives in a tragic slurry tank accident on the family farm in Hillsborough last Saturday. Nevin's sister Emma survived the incident.

The funeral of the three family members took place on Wednesday.

Nevin had worked his way through the Ulster Academy, which he joined in 2008, before making his competitive debut for the senior squad in 2010, at the age of 19.

On Saturday the rugby world paid their respects to the 22-year-old and his family as a minute's silence was observed before games in the Aviva Premiership and Pro12 rugby games at 3pm.

Ulster's Pro12 match against Italian side Zebre, which was due to take place on Friday night, was postponed to give team members time to grieve.

Before Friday's Pro12 game between Welsh teams Scarlets and Ospreys, a chorus of 'Stand Up for the Ulster Men' was chanted by supporters following the minute's silence.

At Malone rugby grounds, players and supporters held a minute's silence before Malone went on to beat Rainey Old Boys.

Coach Jacques Benade taught Nevin at Dromore High School for two years.

He paid tribute to the "outstanding rugby player and football player".

"Nevin just showed at that level already, at age 14-15 that he was an unbelievable athlete, an absolute gentleman and just a brilliant man to know and to coach."

"We on the coaching staff here work very hard and sometimes you get very annoyed, and maybe you don't appreciate maybe the hard work the boys are putting in."

He described the shock and disbelief at Dromore: "It was hard this week working with the players. You can see everyone is very down, we'll see what effect it will have on the game, it is very difficult to get the boys to focus at the moment.

"It brings everything back into perspective," he said.

"Nevin was so well known around all the clubs and all the players, he would always make time to speak to the boys afterwards and give them advice and assist and help.

"I think all the players will definitely miss Nevin Spence."

Other games including Irish league football and hockey also joined the minute's silence.

A special memorial service will be held at Ravenhill from 3pm on Sunday to give local supporters a final chance to pay their respects to Nevin.

The club said it spoke to the family and felt it would be an "appropriate" opportunity to offer the wider community in Ulster an opportunity to celebrate the player's life.

Thousands of supporters have already left floral tributes, letters and flags at the rugby grounds for Nevin, while the book of condolences which was opened earlier this week will be available until Sunday, before being sent on to the Spence family.

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