Sexton celebrates 'very special day' but knows series win 'won't mean anything' at World Cup

By Sports Desk July 16, 2022

Johnny Sexton was determined to enjoy Ireland's historic series win in New Zealand, even if he recognises there remains work to do ahead of next year's Rugby World Cup.

Ireland headed to New Zealand for a three-match series having never won an away Test against the All Blacks.

They ended that wait last week to set up a decider in Wellington, where the tourists sensationally snatched the series with a 32-22 success.

The result was no less than Ireland deserved, with their 19-point half-time lead the largest any team has ever enjoyed at that stage of a Test against New Zealand.

Although the All Blacks rallied after the break, with Andrew Porter heading to the sin bin, Sexton helped to keep his side ahead having passed 1,000 international points in the first half.

"It's a very special day, because we're playing against the best in the world, the very best," Sexton told Sky Sport in the post-match presentation. "To come down here and do it is very, very special."

Sexton said Ireland have learned the hard way about getting carried away. This result comes a year out from the 2023 World Cup – a competition that Ireland have yet to win, or even make the semi-finals of, despite being one of the world's best teams over an extended period.

"It means a lot now," Sexton said. "I know in a year's time, when the World Cup starts, it won't mean anything, as we've learned before.

"But we'll certainly enjoy tonight – and maybe a couple more days. Then we've got to keep improving; that's what we've learned from previous years: we've got to keep improving.

"This group of boys, with the management we've got, they're a very special group, and I'm proud to be part of it."

Sexton paid special tribute to Ireland coach Andy Farrell.

"It's clear how much belief [is in the team], and it starts with the main man, with Faz," he said.

"He's come in here, he's changed things, he was brave at the start and he stuck with some older lads and got criticised, he brought in some younger lads, he's just done an amazing job. It's all credit to him, really."

Related items

  • Seattle Sounders v Los Angeles FC: Hosts 'flying' with win in 'massive game', says Schmetzer Seattle Sounders v Los Angeles FC: Hosts 'flying' with win in 'massive game', says Schmetzer

    The Seattle Sounders will be "flying" if they can beat Los Angeles FC on Saturday.

    That was the message from coach Brian Schmetzer, who is relishing a huge occasion at Lumen Field, where the Sounders have been outstanding.

    Seattle are on a five-game winning run in MLS, with four of those matches coming at home. They have lost in Seattle only once this year, back in April.

    After a slow start, there are now only five teams above them in the Western Conference, but one of those are LAFC.

    It was a defeat in Los Angeles that set in motion the Sounders' five-game winless run to start the campaign, while their 2023 season ended with a defeat to LAFC at Lumen Field.

    Seattle should not be short of motivation then, and Schmetzer is now shying away from the significance of this game.

    "Saturday is such a big game against LAFC," Schmetzer said. "Everyone needs to come out and show up.

    "This is a massive game for us. We've only lost twice in 18 games. That's pretty darn good if you ask me.

    "We come out with a result on Saturday, and we're flying."

    A win would close the gap between sixth-placed Seattle and second-placed LAFC to just four points, with this weekend's visitors wobbling in recent weeks against elite opposition.

    The performance in the midweek draw with Real Salt Lake was merely "a little better" than in the prior humbling 5-1 defeat to the Columbus Crew, according to coach Steve Cherundolo.

    "No, I was not happy with the performance [against RSL]," he said.

    LAFC had won nine of their previous 10 ahead of the Columbus game.

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Seattle Sounders – Albert Rusnak

    Rusnak assisted Jon Bell's first Seattle goal in the midweek win over St Louis City, continuing his fine form. That was his sixth consecutive home match in which he had registered a goal contribution.

    Obafemi Martins is the only Sounders player with a longer such streak in a single regular season, with a seven-game run in 2014.

    Los Angeles FC – Mateusz Bogusz

    Olivier Giroud officially became an LAFC player this week, but Bogusz has contributed handily while the team have waited for the World Cup winner to arrive.

    Bogusz has contributed to goals in each of his past five away matches, the longest active streak in MLS. Only Carlos Vela has had goal contributions in more consecutive road games in the regular season for LAFC (six matches in 2018).

    MATCH PREDICTION: LAFC WIN

    Across MLS and the US Open Cup, the Sounders have won six games in a row, their longest winning run since a streak of the same length ended in MLS Cup glory in 2019.

    But LAFC are the Sounders' bogey side right now. They have won three in a row against Seattle and are unbeaten in seven in this fixture.

    The Rave Green have not beaten LAFC since May 2021, and Saturday's visitors will hope to provide another reality check.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Seattle Sounders – 32.1%
    Los Angeles FC – 42.5%
    Draw – 25.4%

  • Dyche 'should be in the hat' to replace Southgate, says Young Dyche 'should be in the hat' to replace Southgate, says Young

    Everton head coach Sean Dyche "should be in the hat" to replace outgoing England boss Gareth Southgate, according to Toffees defender Ashley Young.

    Southgate announced on Thursday he would be stepping down as the Three Lions' head coach after just under eight years in the role.

    The 53-year-old guided England to successive European Championship finals - losing to Italy and Spain respectively - as well as the 2018 World Cup semi-finals, and third place in the 2019 Nations League.

    Young was part of the Three Lions side that reached the last four in Russia six years ago, with Southgate bringing him back into the international fold after a four-year absence.

    With the search for Southgate's successor now under way, the 39-year-old believes Everton boss Dyche should be in contention.

    The former Burnley coach, who has won 90 of his 314 Premier League games in charge, secured top-flight survival on the final day of the 2022-23 season - his first in charge - and, despite facing a points deduction, he steered the Toffees well clear of danger last term.

    Young, who paid tribute to Southgate on X, insists his manager's credentials should not be underestimated.

    "I don't think even when Gareth Southgate got the job, he [Dyche] was considered to be England manager," he told BBC Sport. "Who can say the gaffer shouldn’t be considered because you don’t know until someone is given that role?

    "You have had previous managers like Steve McClaren, Fabio Capello, Roy Hodgson who have come in with a longer career in the game, with more success but have not been able to get the England team to - where I feel - an England team should have been.

    "There will be names thrown in the hat left, right and centre, and for the job the manager has done, of course his name should be in the hat.

    "When he came in [at Everton], it looked like the club was going to get relegated, and he saved them on the final day of the season.

    "He was still able to come in and turn the club around. Last season, if things were different, the position we could have finished in could have been totally different.

    "I don't think he is given the praise for what he does and brings to the club. There should be so much more praise for what he has done."

  • Argentina 1-0 Colombia (aet): Lautaro Martinez's extra-time strike seals Copa America crown Argentina 1-0 Colombia (aet): Lautaro Martinez's extra-time strike seals Copa America crown

    Lautaro Martinez struck an extra-time winner as Argentina edged out Colombia 1-0 to win their second successive Copa America title, despite losing Lionel Messi to injury.

    The Inter forward climbed off the bench to break Los Cafeteros' hearts in the 112th minute in Miami, where kick-off had been delayed for 82 minutes due to crowd disruption outside the stadium. 

    La Albiceleste headed into extra time without Messi, who left the field in tears in the 66th minute after sustaining an ankle injury.

    Nevertheless, Lautaro Martinez stepped up in his skipper's absence, slotting past Colombia goalkeeper Camilo Vargas to deliver his nation's record-breaking 16th Copa triumph.

    Both sides demonstrated their attacking intent early on. Julian Alvarez fired wide inside the opening 60 seconds, while Jhon Cordoba's volley clipped the outside of the post six minutes later.

    Emiliano Martinez held onto a Carlos Cuesta header and, at the other end, Alvaraz inadvertently took the sting out of Lionel Messi's goalbound effort on 20 minutes.

    As the final remained in the balance, Jefferson Lerma fired narrowly wide from distance, while Nicolas Tagliafico headed over from a Messi free-kick just before the break.

    Colombia created the better opportunities in the early stages of the second half. Santiago Arias drilled wide and Davinson Sanchez headed over from a James Rodriguez corner.

    At the other end, Camilo Vargas pushed away Angel Di Maria's effort from a tight angle, before a distraught Messi was forced off injured as the game headed into the final quarter.

    Messi's replacement Nicolas Gonzalez thought he had broken the deadlock in the 75th minute, but Argentina were denied by the offside flag as the game headed for extra time.

    Gonzalez went close again five minutes into the first period, with Vargas scrambling across to thwart him on the line.

    A penalty shootout loomed but, with eight minutes remaining, two Argentina substitutes combined with Giovani Lo Celso feeding Lautaro Martinez, whose composed finish snatched the Copa from under Colombia's noses.

    Super sub Lautaro seals Argentina's successful title defence

    Having scored from the bench in Argentina's opening two Group A games against Canada and Chile, Lautaro Martinez chose an ideal moment to complete a hat-trick of such strikes in this tournament.

    Combining with fellow substitute Lo Celso, the Inter forward netted his fifth goal in the United States to secure the Golden Boot award.

    La Albiceleste needed a hero after Messi limped off on a bittersweet night for the skipper.

    The first player to feature in five Copa America finals, at 37 years and 20 days, he was also the oldest player to start one in the 21st century.

    However, there was to be no match-winning contribution this time in a tournament at which he has been plagued by niggling injuries.

    Messi's international future is uncertain but team-mates Di Maria and Nicolas Otamendi - both of whom donned the captain's armband following his withdrawal - sign off with another major international honour under their belts.

    Courageous Colombia come up short

    While Argentina captured their 16th Copa, Colombia were seeking just the second in their history.

    Los Cafeteros claimed their sole triumph on home soil in 2001, notably recording three successive clean sheets in the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final.

    It looked like Nestor Lorenzo's current crop of players could follow suit 23 years later, as they more than held their own with the reigning Copa and world champions.

    But La Albiceleste - the last team to beat them before they embarked on their record-breaking 28-match unbeaten run - proved their nemesis once more, with Lautaro Martinez's strike breaking that streak, and breaking their hearts.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.