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Dublin: 6 °C Friday 14 December, 2018
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Sexton is clutch personified and more talking points from Ireland's dramatic win in Paris

We thought the game, and the Championship, was gone.

Image: James Crombie/INPHO

WHAT A ROLLERCOASTER! Ireland sneaked a win over France thanks to as dramatic a finish as we’ve witnessed in the Six Nations. You’ll find Murray Kinsella’s match report from Stade de France here, below are some of our immediate post-match thoughts.

THAT drop-goal

There are few things in rugby, maybe in sport, that carry more drama than a drop-goal to win a game.

By definition, you relinquish control of the ball, you roll the dice by dropping it on the turf and trusting in your skill and timing to execute the skill… perfectly.

For Sexton, this was truly iconic moment in his career.

Source: Six Nations Rugby/YouTube

It was his superb ballsy cross-field kick to Keith Earls that took Ireland out of their half and into enemy territory just as France looked set to ground Irish momentum to a halt. And he called the game-defining play on his own shoulders with time long up and energy spent after 41 grueling phases.

Jonathan Sexton celebrates kicking a drop goal to win the game Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

On a dismal night in Paris with a heavy wet ball, 45 metres is a hell of a distance to smash a drop goal and steal a win with 82.38 on the clock.

A beautiful finish to an ugly, vital win

After Wales set the bar earlier today, putting five points on the board by trouncing Scotland, a win to keep pace was essential as far as the Championship is concerned.

Until that astounding 41-phase effort to take the victory away from France though, Ireland stuttered through this contest.

Ireland players celebrate with Johnny Sexton after he kicked the winning drop goal Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Though Ireland seemed to have control of the contest for long stretches, handling and errors and breakdown issues meant they struggled to shake off Les Bleus and the six-point lead was duly proven to be not enough when Teddy Thomas carved Ireland open to make us all fear the worst.

Thankfully, the inaccuracies and struggles that so nearly led to France’s first win in seven attempts were rendered immaterial by Sexton’s moment clutch personified.

What’s rare is wonderful

We touched on it a few times in the build-up to this Test, because all the logic pointing towards an Irish win had to be weighed against a whole lot of history to the contrary.

Before today, Ireland managed just five wins away to France since World War II. Now we have three wins to celebrate since 1972, all in this century: one via a Brian O’Driscoll hat-trick and two thanks to very different kinds of brilliance from Sexton.

Bundee Aki celebrates after the game Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Today’s win ticks the percentage up a welcome extra point or so and also puts a slightly fairer reflection on the respective trajectory of these two teams over the past six years as France have now failed to beat Ireland three times in four attempts on their home soil.

In Paris, nothing ever comes easy

Today was Joe Schmidt’s third match in Paris as Ireland head coach. His two wins have both been by two nerve-wracking points with a one-point defeat sandwiched in between.

It’s not simply a matter of getting spooked by the City of Lights, whatever form France take they will always be big, imposing physical men who love to smash the more skillful members of the opposition.

Jonathan Sexton celebrates kicking a drop goal to win the game with Devin Toner Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The noise players talk about in the Stade de France can influence referees too and Sébastien Vahaamahina was the hitman on this occasion, escaping serious sanction for a hit on Conor Murray, while the persistent infringement from the hosts would probably have been worth a card in any other venue.

That said, Ireland’s own failings helped France cling on to the coat-tails and force Sexton to deliver the most magical moment of his career.

Stunning Johnny Sexton drop-goal steals Paris win for Schmidt’s Ireland

Wonderful Wales unleash their Scarlets to thrash Scotland

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Sean Farrell

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