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'With 10 minutes to go, I didn’t see the game unfolding like that' - Sexton

The 35-year-old slotted the winning penalty late on in Murrayfield.

Sexton scored the winning penalty for Ireland.
Sexton scored the winning penalty for Ireland.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

IRELAND CAPTAIN JOHNNY Sexton admitted they are still short of being a top team after they gave up a 14-lead against Scotland and needed a late, late penalty to edge victory in Murrayfield.

Sexton held his nerve with the penalty shot from wide on the left after the Scots had overcome Ireland’s 24-10 lead to level the game at 24-24 with five minutes left in Edinburgh.

It was a moment of composure from the Ireland skipper with the pressure on.

“It was brilliant by Ryan Baird to get the charge down,” said Sexton. “He’s so explosive for the first couple of steps and then to make the tackle that he does, Iain Henderson [who won the turnover penalty] was outstanding as well.

“Obviously, then you have to kick it. I kicked pretty well all game – it wasn’t my best of the day. My best of the day probably hit the post but it was enough. I was trying to keep it a little bit lower.

“It was quite blustery in the stadium and it was a good enough strike to get over and thankfully we get the four points which is very important and we’re up to second now and have a big end to the tournament next week. ”

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Sexton stressed that Ireland’s collapse after going 24-10 up hadn’t been good enough.

“With 10 minutes to go, I didn’t see the game unfolding like that,” said Sexton. “International rugby throws things at you that you don’t expect at times.  

“I thought we dominated large parts of the game but I suppose when they had their small purple patches they scored.

“When we’re 14 points up and we concede that try it just changes the game again and we need to be better there. 

“We had a kick-off receipt that we didn’t deal well with, we had a lineout that we didn’t deal well with, then we missed a tackle that we should have done better with. So as good a team as Scotland are, we have to look at ourselves, first and foremost, and need to improve.  

“If you have a 14-point lead in international rugby, the next moment is the most important one and you can put a statement down. Top teams, I think, take the kick-off and clear their lines and then they put pressure on again. 

“We’re just short of that at the moment.”

Next up for Ireland is the visit of Eddie Jones’ England, who are fresh from an impressive victory over France.

It looks like a big ask for Ireland in the final round of this championship.

“We’ll find out next Saturday, won’t we?” said Sexton when asked if Ireland are good enough to beat the English.

“We feel that we have been building, that we were a bit unlucky in the first couple of games. But even though they have had a couple of bad results, they are a team that was in the World Cup final and won the Six Nations last year.

“They won the Autumn Nations Cup as well, so they are a top, top team and we have to prove that we can match them and put in a performance that can beat one of the top teams because we haven’t done that as of yet.”

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Murray Kinsella

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