‘Living in a dream’: Sexton bows with slam and record from 6N but England fumes at ‘complete farce’
Ireland completed their fourth Six Nations Grand Slam with a 29-16 win over England at the Aviva Stadium, solidly confirming their status as world No. 1 ahead of September’s World Cup.
Andy Farrell’s side were worthy of their clean sweep on Saturday after winning all their games by 13 points or more and ending the 14-game run of 2022 winners France in one of the best league games in recent memory.
Two tries from Dan Sheehan and one each from Robbie Henshaw and Rob Herring saw Ireland finish second ahead of France and Scotland third, while a third defeat for England left them fourth.
Best of all for home fans amid the St Patrick’s Day weekend celebrations, it was the first time Ireland sealed the Grand Slam in Dublin, after Twickenham (2018), Cardiff (2009) and Belfast (1948).
Talismanic captain Johnny Sexton got the perfect send-off in his final Six Nations match as he also finished as the tournament’s all-time points-scorer.
Earlier, France had ended their campaign with an emphatic 41-28 bonus points win over Wales at the Stade de France, who sealed their second-place finish on 20 points behind Ireland on 27 points.
In the first game of the day, Scotland defeated Italy 26-14 to secure third place, 15 points clear of England’s 10 in fourth place.
Wales finished fifth with six points, while Italy supported the table again with just one point from their five games.
The game between Ireland and England turned in the hosts’ favor when Freddie Steward was sent off for the visitors just before half-time.
“Honestly, I couldn’t make it up. It’s like living in a dream — I actually worry about waking up in the morning,” Sexton said.
“We didn’t do our best, but what a team. What a team. What a group of coaches, they prepared us so well.
“We didn’t do anything they told us to do [in the win over England], we did exactly the opposite. We made it difficult for ourselves, but look, England are a top team.
“To come here and win St. Patrick’s weekend is incredible. What a day. Unbelievable.”
Sexton, 37, will retire after the World Cup in France later this year.
He was level with compatriot Ronan O’Gara on 557 6N points early in the game, scoring three conversions and a penalty before limping off the pitch at the Aviva Stadium with 10 minutes remaining.
“Like I said of the week, that’s what you dream of as a kid,” Sexton said. “Having my family watching here today is a dream coming through and I’m pinching myself.
“We wanted to win the Grand Slam at the beginning of the year. We had a Triple Crown last year, we wanted to build on that, and today mattered.
“We talked about this day eight weeks ago and finally got to the grand finale. We didn’t quite make it but we did enough and I’m so proud of the guys for sticking with it. Thank you everyone here today, it was an incredible atmosphere.”
Sexton said his team was determined to win the World Cup to cap a period of dominance.
“It’s an incredible group of people. We are so proud to be Irish and when we come here we want everyone to see that. I think that’s what we do – win, lose or draw – and that’s the main thing,
“It doesn’t feel like the end. There is a lot more in this team to keep building. We definitely need to improve on today, we’re coming back and we’re going to need all that support in four or five months.”
England fans and former players were furious at Steward’s red card after his elbow hit Hugo Keenan in the head.
Former England scrum half Matt Dawson said: “Officials show a lack of understanding of the game.
Dawson said Steward tried his best not to make contact when he and Keenan flew at each other.
“I can’t disagree that the contact is red, but it’s the context of how that contact came about,” Dawson said on BBC Radio 5 Live.
“He kicks and slows and turns to get out of the contact area and was sent off. It’s a mockery.
“He did his utmost to avoid any kind of contact. It is pure farce.”
England captain Owen Farrell said the red card “appeared harshly” but added: “It’s not my place to have an opinion. They made the rules for a reason, that’s all I can say.”
Meanwhile in Paris, France ended their Six Nations campaign with an emphatic 41-28 bonus points victory over Wales at the Stade de France.
Damian Penaud crossed twice, Jonathan Danty, Uini Atonio and Gael Fickou all scored a try and Thomas Ramos scored the other points in Saturday’s final game.
Wales, set for a much bigger defeat early in the second half, fought back and finished the game with four tries from George North, Bradley Roberts, Tomos Williams and Rio Dyer, with the other points coming from boots from Dan Biggar and Leigh Half cent.
Wales got off to a perfect start, holding the ball as they worked their way through the stages and their dominance was rewarded with North’s early try between the posts.
France’s response was as brutal as it was brilliant a week after England suffered a record-breaking injury at Twickenham.
On their first attacking move, Penaud collected a long pass from Antoine Dupont and crossed into the corner after Romain Ntamack escaped several tackles to dance through the middle.
In a bitter struggle, France extended a lead with two penalties from Ramos and as the visitors suffered physically, Danty added another attempt to extend the lead to 13 points after Ramos’ conversion.
Danty dived far to the right in the corner after a quick ball movement.
France’s third try was a show of force as Atonio prevailed to help Les Bleus continue to get by and Fickou won the fourth try after being set up by Ntamack.
The home side took things a bit too lightly, however, and Wales made the most of it with a clean try from Roberts after Ramos’ overly ambitious run was quickly stopped behind the try line.
France’s casual approach was punished again when Williams scored the visitors’ third try from an alley 10 yards from the French line.
Normal service resumed in the last five minutes when Penaud touched down again in the corner and converted Ramos to give France a 20-point lead.
But Dyer came through at the last minute and Halfpenny converted to close the gap to 13 points.
https://www.theroar.com.au/2023/03/19/living-in-a-dream-sexton-bows-out-of-6n-with-slam-and-record-but-england-fuming-over-utter-farce/ ‘Living in a dream’: Sexton bows with slam and record from 6N but England fumes at ‘complete farce’