Sensational Sexton kicks Ireland to victory over France

DECLAN MURPHY Roar Guru

By DECLAN MURPHY, DECLAN MURPHY is a Roar Guru

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    Ireland snatched a 15-13 victory over France in the Six Nations thanks to Johnny Sexton’s last-second drop goal in France on Saturday.

    It was an incredible finish to what had been a relatively dour game. An unfancied France side were actually leading Ireland with only seconds left on the clock. Ireland had to retain the ball in miserable conditions, knowing that the match would end as soon as the ball went dead.

    It was a tremendous show of grit by both sides. Ireland were forced to go through 41 phases of ball retention before Sexton was in a position to kick. The French put in a superb defensive performance.

    The tense final moments lifted what had been an otherwise dire game. It should go down in history as one of the great last-minute victories. A more gripping finale couldn’t be scripted.

    For most of the 80 minutes there was little endeavour on show, neither side able to find holes in the opposition defence. It was a terrific performance by France to stay in the game for as long as they did.

    Although Ireland had only won in France three times since 1972, they were in a very favourable position. They had an experienced squad with few injuries up against a French team that had lost the last seven games. This fixture was also France’s first under new coach Jacques Brunel, after Guy Noves was sacked in December.

    Brunel picked an inexperienced team. Ireland veteran Rob Kearney had more caps than the entire French backline combined. Meanwhile, France’s bench only had 16 caps between them.

    Brunel also chose Matthieu Jalibert, a 19-year-old debutant at fly-half. Jalibert started well, looking composed in the early stages. Unfortunately, the Bordeaux prodigy was forced to leave the field at the 30-minute mark with a serious knee injury, ruling him out for the rest of the tournament.

    Ireland led 12-6 after 70 minutes, when a bit of French flair seemed to turn the game. A quick lineout found Antoine Dupont who jinked and set winger Teddy Thomas free down the right flank. Thomas hit the accelerator, leaving Jacob Stockdale, Keith Earls and Sexton in his wake to score.

    France converted to lead 13-12. It was a fitting highlight to win any game, but Sexton had other ideas.

    As the clock ticked towards 83 minutes, Ireland held their nerve and their patience. Sexton’s right boot did the rest, thumping a field goal from all of 44 metres.

    Ireland's fly half Jonny Sexton kicks a penalty

    (AFP PHOTO / IAN MACNICOL)

    The game was also marred in controversy, with a French player leaving the field to undergo a Head Injury Assessment. Replacement scrum-half Dupont went to ground and the team doctor called for an HIA.

    Dupont looked to be holding his knee and no footage could be found of any contact to his head occurring. The HIA call allowed the far more experienced Machine Maxenaud to return to the field for the last minutes of the game, despite having already been subbed off for Dupont.

    France were fined for abusing the HIA law in a game against Wales last year. The HIA rule was introduced to protect the welfare of the players and should not be abused for tactical reasons.

    Match referee Nigel Owens seemed dubious about the call but was unwilling to overrule the match doctor. Several former players have derided the incident on social media. The Six Nations board have announced that they will investigate further.

    Despite the miraculous finish in Paris, the Irish will be disappointed they left it so late. They’ll need to improve drastically if they hope to compete with Wales (who crushed Scotland 34-7) and England (who beat Italy 46-15). Ireland’s next assignment is at home against Italy on Saturday (February 10 at 2pm in Dublin).

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    The Crowd Says (11)

    • Roar Guru

      February 7th 2018 @ 3:08am
      DECLAN MURPHY said | February 7th 2018 @ 3:08am | ! Report

      Antoine Dupont has being ruled out of the rest of the 6 Nations, as has Josh Van der Flier.

      • February 8th 2018 @ 7:55pm
        HenryHoneyBalls said | February 8th 2018 @ 7:55pm | ! Report

        I hope Dupont’s head is ok.

    • February 7th 2018 @ 4:04am
      Taylorman said | February 7th 2018 @ 4:04am | ! Report

      Good old French and their tactics. Still think Sexton succumbed to pressure when he chipped in the 82nd minute to his winger. One thing you don’t do is give the opposition possession at that point, or try something that could be knocked on etc. he got real lucky the winger took it cleanly but in a wet match with time up, a sideways chip to the wing?

      Pressure.

      Luckily he made up for it with a very well taken droppie, but he’ll know he got away with that one.

      • Roar Guru

        February 7th 2018 @ 12:04pm
        Poth Ale said | February 7th 2018 @ 12:04pm | ! Report

        The move upfield had stalled by phase 23 in the 80th minute. The French were competing at most of the breakdowns. Sexton needed to change it up and move the point of attack away from the Centre. His kick pass for Earls was deliberate and risky, but also contained an element of risk for the French too. Earls is very good under high ball and the French winger backed off for fear of giving away a penalty, and allowed Earls to gain vital ground. As soon as they did, the French changed their breakdown stance and stopped competing completely.

        Luck, risk, danger are all part of the game. The safe option of continuing doing what they were doing wasn’t going anywhere. Who dares wins.

        • Roar Guru

          February 7th 2018 @ 10:46pm
          Harry Jones said | February 7th 2018 @ 10:46pm | ! Report

          And it finally got Ireland over halfway.

          • Roar Guru

            February 8th 2018 @ 9:36am
            Poth Ale said | February 8th 2018 @ 9:36am | ! Report

            Exactly Harry.

      • February 8th 2018 @ 12:41am
        HenryHoneyBalls said | February 8th 2018 @ 12:41am | ! Report

        The cross field kick took major balls and he nailed it. The kick landed in from the touch line which meant Earls could launch himself into it with a run up and avoid being pushed into touch. It put Ireland into France’s half and that helped Ireland go through the phases as all of a sudden they were more fearful of giving away a penalty. Risky tactic but I was at the game Earls was waving for it and Sexton nailed it.

        Sexton’s restart dropout out to start the 40 phases was also pinpoint.

        • Roar Guru

          February 8th 2018 @ 1:40am
          Harry Jones said | February 8th 2018 @ 1:40am | ! Report

          Also, Earls had been winning the aerial battle all game.

          After 20 phases in and around Ireland’s 10 m line, it was time to mix it up.

          I was watching it in France, and that moment created panic among the locals and joy in the visiting Irish, at a bar in Chamonix.

          Then, Iain and CJ won the vital final metres.

          • February 8th 2018 @ 1:49am
            HenryHoneyBalls said | February 8th 2018 @ 1:49am | ! Report

            Exactly, the timing was right and it was executed very well. The crowd all around me for 20 rows back in the Stade de France went deadly silent after Earls caught the kick. Henderson’s final yards were key.

            Also when the DG came all the backs were lined up alongside Sexton to disguise the kick. I think from drop off to drop goal the whole sequence was managed very well with all players contributing well.

          • Roar Guru

            February 8th 2018 @ 9:53am
            Carlos the Argie said | February 8th 2018 @ 9:53am | ! Report

            Did you go skiing down la Vallée Blanche, Harry? It is one run that has eluded me still.

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