in the past

Sexton puts bad Twickenham memories behind him with impressive outing

The 35-year-old admitted to dwelling on that Six Nations defeat in recent months.

SATURDAY NIGHT WAS Johnny Sexton’s first game since Twickenham all the way back in February, as was the case for several of his Leinster team-mates.

But perhaps unlike some of them, Ireland’s defeat to England in the Six Nations earlier this year had simmered away in the back of Sexton’s mind for much of time since.

The 35-year-old has never been one to easily move on from disappointments so the memories of missing kicks at goal and being part of a poor collective performance by the team he was captaining over in London didn’t simply slip from his thoughts.

a-disappointed-johnny-sexton-after-the-game-2322020 Sexton and Ireland had a tough day in London back in February. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

But as he served up several reminders of his enduring qualities in Leinster’s 27-25 win over Munster on the return of Irish rugby on Saturday night at the Aviva Stadium, Sexton enjoyed finally putting some of those frustrations to bed.

Handling the physical challenge CJ Stander delivered was just one part of a busy 59-minute outing for Sexton, who kicked at 100% off the tee, as well as combining with Josh van der Flier for a choke tackle turnover just before creating James Lowe’s try in a brilliant 80-second passage.

“I suppose it was a difficult time in lockdown, having the last… I was really happy with how I played against Wales and Scotland and how I was playing for Leinster before I got injured, and then obviously I had a bad game against England,” said Sexton post-match.

“That obviously didn’t sit well for the first six months of lockdown, it was a struggle to have to think about that and I’m not one to sort of let things go easy, and it did play on my mind.

“So it was great to take a few shots at goal even, to get them under your belt, to do some good things in the game, just to have a focus now that’s not my last game from six months ago.

“It’s something to work on now and something to look at that’s more recent.”

cj-stander-comes-up-against-johnny-sexton CJ Stander carried hard at Sexton on Saturday night. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

Sexton wasn’t totally satisfied with Leinster’s performance on the night, underlining that they have major progress to make in the next two weeks before Pro14 play-off rugby leads on into the Champions Cup quarter-final clash with Saracens, but simply being back was a pleasure.

The Leinster captain looked physically sharp and with so many other people commenting that the lockdown may have been good for his longevity, Sexton said he is feeling good.

“It was like an extended pre-season, wasn’t it? But it’s not like you’re working full-on for five months – you’ve got to take a week off here and there, then go hard for a few weeks and then download for a week or two.

“I used the time well, I had a couple of great training buddies, with my brother when the restrictions lifted and a good friend of mine.

“We went to the gym together in the back garden, we did a bit of kicking together, and did some running.

“I actually really enjoyed it by the end of it, in a strange kind of way. I got to spend some quality time with the family but thankfully it’s over now and we’re back playing.”

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