Sunday 15 September 2019

Sexton delight as late penalty gets Racing off to a flier

Johnny Sexton kept his nerve to seal the win for Racing Metro
Johnny Sexton kept his nerve to seal the win for Racing Metro

John Fallon

Jonathan Sexton said that winning away to fellow Top 14 semi-finalists has kick-started his second season in France in the best fashion possible.

The Irish international landed a 45-metre penalty two minutes from time to secure a 19-16 win on Saturday night for Racing Metro in a bad-tempered affair, which saw Montpellier hooker Charles Geli red-carded on the stroke of half-time after another brawl.

Sexton, targeted for late hits, kept his nerve throughout and landed all four kicks in contrast to a Montpellier side who fluffed four from eight, with French international Francois Trinh-Duc the biggest culprit.

Sexton levelled the match seven minutes from time with a penalty from 25 metres and was then relieved to see the winner clear the crossbar from just inside halfway to seal an invaluable win.

"I had played 78 or 79 minutes at that stage and the heart rate was up, so I was just trying to get into a routine," he said.

"The wind was picking up a little bit now and again. Even though it's quite an enclosed stadium, the corners are open, so it can be quite blustery.

"I think Francois Trinh-Duc was a little unlucky with a couple of his, he hit down the middle and at the last minute the wind maybe took it.

"I just work my hardest all week and sometimes it comes off and sometimes it doesn't, it's the fickle nature of being a rugby player."

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The win gives the big-spending Paris side a big morale boost at the outset of the campaign and Sexton, with Ronan O'Gara also settling into his second season at Racing Metro as assistant coach, wants them to build on this success.

"We needed it because we have to play Bordeaux away next week, then we've got Toulon at home and then we have to travel to Clermont.

"Our first four fixtures. . . three away against arguably teams that are going to finish in the top half of the table, so to pick up a win away from home was fantastic, but we've got to go again now next week. If we get a good result now next week, we're in a really good position," added Sexton.

Elsewhere, Bernard Jackman's tenure as Grenoble head coach got off to an encouraging start when they picked up a bonus point in a 30-26 loss at Clermont Auvergne, where former Leinster forwards coach Jono Gibbes made a winning start in his new role with Joe Schmidt's former side.

Former Connacht and Leinster lock Damien Browne suffered heartbreak in Toulouse, where English international Toby Flood out-half crowned his debut with all 20 points, including a last-minute penalty to deny Oyonnax a famous win in a 20-19 encounter.

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