Six Nations: Sexton 'living in a dream' after bowing out with Grand Slam glory

By Sports Desk March 18, 2023

Johnny Sexton says winning a Grand Slam in his final Six Nations campaign is "like living in a dream" and has vowed there is more to come from Ireland heading into the Rugby World Cup.

Ireland defeated England 29-16 at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday to make it five wins from five in this year's tournament and finish seven points ahead of France.

Sexton, who will retire after this year's World Cup in France, kicked nine points to become the competition's outright all-time leading points scorer with 566 to his name.

Ireland were far from perfect on the day, with England within one point of their opponents after an hour despite being reduced to 14 men, but Sexton could not have been happier.

"You could not make this up, it is like living in a dream," he told BBC Radio 5 Live. "We did not play our best but what a team. What a group of coaches.

"We did nothing that they told us, in fact the exact opposite, but we made things hard for ourselves.

"England are a top-class team. To get a win on St Patrick's weekend is unbelievable. We did not quite nail it, but we did enough.

"It is the best tournament to play in, the best country to play for. We are so proud to be Irish."

 

Ireland have now won their last 14 Tests, but in an ominous warning to their World Cup rivals, Sexton said: "It does not feel like the end for us.

"There is plenty left in this team. We need to improve on today and we will be back."

Ireland were helped by a contentious red card issued to Freddie Steward right at the end of the first half after the fullback's shoulder connected with the head of Hugo Keenan.

The hosts were four points better off at that point in Dublin thanks to the first of Dan Sheehan's two tries and Sexton's record-breaking penalty.

Robbie Henshaw and Sheehan appeared to put Ireland completely out of reach before Jamie George's score gave England a glimmer of hope.

But Rob Herring got the party in full swing with a bonus-point clinching try late on to seal the Grand Slam in style for the world's top-ranked nation.

"It means so much to everyone. To be able to do a St Patrick's weekend and win a Grand Slam is always going to be special," Ireland head coach Andy Farrell told ITV Sport.

"It was squeaky bum time at 10-9. The pressure that France put on in the last couple of games, we knew it was win at all costs.

"It was a proper old-fashioned Test match. We were disappointed with some aspects of our game but we've a bonus-point win. That's where we're at at the moment."

Sexton led the Irish celebrations by lifting the trophy in front of a delirious home crowd, and Farrell hopes there could yet be an even bigger send-off for the all-time great.

"Hopefully there's bigger fish to fry for Johnny with the World Cup," Farrell said. "It's unbelievable for him to have this moment and lift the trophy.

"He wanted to lift it with someone else and I said he mustn't. He deserves it. What a way for him to go out of the Six Nations."

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