Johnny Sexton shrugged off France’s latest bully-boy tactics to pilot Ireland’s stubborn 19-9 RBS 6 Nations victory in Dublin.
Sexton copped a heavy, late hit from former Racing 92 team-mate Eddy Ben Arous, but shook off any damage to end the day with an 11-point haul in Ireland’s fine triumph.
Conor Murray sneaked home for the game’s sole try to keep Ireland’s Six Nations title hopes alive, with Paddy Jackson also posting a late penalty.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
“Allez les verts! Super win for @IrishRugby #IREvFRA” - the official PRO12 rugby account injected a spot of French flair into its congratulations after Ireland beat Les Bleus.
Johnny Sexton. Sexton, much-targeted by France in recent years, overcame the calf strain which had sidelined him since January 20 to return to action for his country. The Ireland fly-half came through a tough examination by Les Bleus, pulling the strings with half-back partner Conor Murray as well as kicking 11 points, including a brilliant drop goal which ignited the match and was the catalyst for a more freeflowing game by the Irish.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Sexton’s drop goal. After a tight first half, Ireland were leading 10-6 early in the second period when referee Nigel Owens gave the hosts a penalty advantage. Sexton took the chance of a risk-free drop goal and caught it perfectly, slotting the ball through the middle of the posts and putting Ireland a converted score in front. The Dublin crowd roared and Ireland kicked on from there.
Not only did Sexton kick the majority of the points for the home side, the Ireland stand-off made more metres than any other player on the pitch, 67, and he was replaced with 10 minutes remaining. In total, Ireland gained 77 more metres than France in the match (386 to 309), making 195 passes to France’s 133 and conceding eight penalties to Les Bleus’ 13 in the 10-point victory.