Injury setback for Leinster as Sexton suffers broken hand
IRELAND hero Jonathan Sexton proved to be as brave as he is skilful by playing out Saturday's thrilling 15-10 win over world champions South Africa with a broken hand.
The out-half contributed all of his side's points with five penalties at Croke Park and, despite breaking two fingers in his hand during the second half, was then part of Ireland's desperate defensive effort to keep out the Springboks as the visitors came in search of a winning score with the last play of the game.
Sexton had an X-ray on his hand after the match and will undergo further scans this week but looks certain to miss Leinster's back-to-back Heineken Cup pool clashes with the Scarlets next month.
However, Saturday's heroics capped a spectacular month for the 24-year-old who was man of the match on his international debut against Fiji a week earlier. Ireland coach Declan Kidney expressed his satisfaction that, with Ronan O'Gara also impressing in the draw with Australia, he now has access to two top-quality outside halves.
"Maybe if ROG was playing, we'd have won by more, who knows?" noted Kidney. "It's just a blessing to have an up-and-coming out-half and a world-class out-half, long may that continue."
Ireland's victory means they end the year unbeaten with nine victories and a draw from 10 matches while picking up their first Grand Slam in 61 years but it was their latest victims who picked up the IRB team of the year award following their Lions Series and Tri-Nations successes.
Ireland coach Kidney won the coach of the year award but his captain Brian O'Driscoll, despite Grand Slam and Heineken Cup glory for country and club, was surprisingly overlooked for the player of the year award in favour of New Zealand's captain Richie McCaw, who shone in the All Blacks' win over France on Saturday.