Sunday 16 December 2018

An All Black play from an Irish No 10

(Stock image)
(Stock image)

Noel Mannion

Once Iain Henderson did extremely well to field that drop-off after France missed their last penalty opportunity, Ireland had made a statement, writes Noel Mannion.

They worked their way up to the halfway line. France were really comfortable as they defended around that area of the pitch. They had Ireland in such a position that even a drop-goal or a penalty looked impossible because they were so far out.

But Johnny Sexton did two things that no other out-half in the world can do. He recognised that Ireland were stagnant, so Sexton kicked cross-field for Keith Earls.

In fairness to Earls, not only did he catch the ball, he also gained five or six metres after that. That loosened up the French defence a bit. Then a few phases later Sexton really went for a drop-goal from on the edge of his limit.

He gave it everything and it just scraped over. It was so courageous and most other out-halves would have forced the issue and allowed the play to go three or four more phases to see could Ireland get closer to the posts. But Sexton took the game by the scruff of the neck.

In the past we have admired New Zealand when they won games from a similar position. All of those phases, the brilliant ball retention, and Sexton's sweet strike, it was just pure class from Ireland.

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