Mon, Feb 05, 2018 - Page 11 News List

Sexton is second to none: Ireland coach Schmidt


Ireland lock Iain Henderson grabs the ball during their Six Nations match against France in Paris on Saturday.

Photo: AFP

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt heaped praise on Johnny Sexton after the veteran flyhalf’s incredible late drop goal on Saturday earned a 15-13 Six Nations win over France.

The hosts looked to have snatched victory thanks to a dazzling try from wing Teddy Thomas eight minutes from time.

However, after Anthony Belleau missed a chance to extend their lead with a penalty two minutes from time, Ireland marched up the field and Sexton landed a drop goal from more than 40m out to send the traveling support into rapture and leave France’s despondent players flat out on the pitch.

“He’s got a few [drop goals in the past], but not many,” Schmidt said. “He did it with absolute aplomb. Credit to Johnny, he was struggling, he had a bit of cramp at the time and was fatigued, but his clarity of thought and ability to win it in those big moments is second to none.”

Schmidt said Ireland had been in control and defended well throughout, but added that he had feared Thomas’s solo wonder try could have left his team distraught.

“One freakish event and one freakishly good player can undo all that [good work],” Schmidt said.

France coach Jacques Brunel said he was frustrated by what he described as a “cruel” defeat, but worse still were France’s injuries, particularly half-backs Matthieu Jalibert and Anthony Dupont, both of whom left the field with knee problems.

“What can you feel but huge frustration? It’s cruel, it happened in the 82nd minute, or at least after the 80 minutes, but that’s the way it is,” said Brunel, who rued Belleau’s missed penalty.

“I don’t know if it’s deserved, or if they deserved it. They [Ireland] had a lot of the ball. We had a chance to seal victory, but unfortunately the penalty went past the post. I don’t know if it’s fair or not, but it’s frustrating,” he added.

Brunel is facing the prospect of changing his half-back pairing with both Jalibert and Dupont likely to be ruled out of next week’s trip to Scotland.

“It could be quite serious,” Brunel said. “We’ll wait for the medical tests, but there’s a risk this defeat will cost us.”

Captain Guilhem Guirado said that coming so close to victory only to lose made it more galling.

“Discipline let us down today, but with the chances we had we managed to put them in danger,” he said. “Despite everything, we managed to hang in there and show solidarity and a good team spirit.”

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