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A tough day for captain Johnny Sexton on a tough day for Andy Farrell's Ireland

The 34-year-old missed his two kicks at goal and made an error for England’s opening try.

HAVING CONCEDED AN early try to George Ford, a penalty shot for Ireland in the 14th minute from a central position offered the comfort of getting some points on the scoreboard and finally settling into the game after a rocky start at Twickenham.

Instead, captain Johnny Sexton – whose fumble had allowed Ford to score – failed to connect ideally with his kick, pulling what should have been a straightforward shot wide of the posts.

jonathan-sexton-dejected A dejected Johnny Sexton after Ireland's defeat in London. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Rather than steadying Ireland, the error was a continuation of their poor opening effort in the game and England simply pushed on to build their 17-0 half-time lead.

Sexton didn’t connect with his second-half conversion attempt either, firing his shot wide again after Robbie Henshaw had smashed through Owen Farrell and Tom Curry to score.

“Of course I’d love to get them back and take them again,” said 34-year-old Sexton of his misses post-match.

“Sometimes when it’s a bit blustery like that and you’re trying to get in on top of the ball and smash it really by getting the middle of the ball. I just got it slightly high on both occasions and that’s it.”

Sexton didn’t take Ireland’s final kick of the game – the conversion of Andrew Porter’s late try – as replacement scrum-half John Cooney instead slotted the two points from out on the left.

“I would have taken the last kick, but I thought it was more important to get the boys in a huddle and say a couple of things that I wanted to say,” explained Sexton.

So what did he say as he and his team-mates reflected on a 24-12 defeat that was more comprehensive than the scoreline suggests?

“Just that we need to be disappointed, obviously, with the way we started the game but we’re still in the competition if we can do the job against Italy,” said Sexton, already looking towards the visit of the Italians to Dublin in two weekends’ time.

“Obviously, they’re going to be hurting with not having won a game in a long time but if we can do a job and give a performance, then we’re going to be in with a shout. It’s not going to be in our control, which is disappointing but it will be all to play for in the last game [away to France].

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bundee-aki-and-ultan-dillane-dejected It was a tough afternoon for Ireland in London. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“We said it again in the changing room because we want all 23 lads and the guys who are in the wider 27 to hear it as well. We’re proud of the way we stuck in there but we need to learn some good lessons from that start of the game.”

Ireland boss Andy Farrell put his hand up for his men’s poor start to the contest, suggesting he hadn’t got their mental prep right.

“It’s up to myself for that, you know, were they [England] up for it more?” said Farrell.

“And us going for a Triple Crown? That’s my responsibility to make sure that shouldn’t happen. So I’ve got to look at myself, first and foremost.”

But Sexton said he and his team-mates have to be self-critical.

“Faz will always say that,” said Sexton. “Look, as players, I think we were in the right frame of mind. At 7-0 down, I didn’t deal with the chip through. We missed a shot at goal. Another chip through and we’re 14-0 down.

“A couple of chances, a couple of decisions against us and then we’re chasing. I was proud of the lads in the second half, proud of the way we stuck in and fought back and we could have got another score or two maybe. Obviously, we were trying to chase to get that bonus point or deny them. 

“Yeah, we’re very disappointed but players-wise, I thought we had a brilliant week’s prep and the difference between a victory and a defeat like that is very small.

“You’ll always hear us talk about that, you might throw your eyes up to heaven when you hear that at times but, for me, when you give a quality team – and they are a quality team – and they had big pressure points on us at times when you give them 14 points from chip throughs, it’s obviously very disappointing.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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