Wednesday 25 April 2018

Joe Schmidt heaps praise on Keith Earls for amazing catch in the lead-up to Johnny Sexton's magical drop goal

Keith Earls of Ireland in action against Virimi Vakatawa of France during the NatWest Six Nations Rugby Championship match between France and Ireland at the Stade de France in Paris, France. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Keith Earls of Ireland in action against Virimi Vakatawa of France during the NatWest Six Nations Rugby Championship match between France and Ireland at the Stade de France in Paris, France. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt was a relieved man after watching Johnny Sexton rescue his side's Grand Slam ambitions with a scarcely believable drop goal in the dying seconds of today's 15-13 win over France.

Ireland have seen their Grand Slam chances quashed on the opening day of the last two Six Nations campaigns and came within a whisker of it happening again.

Sexton anded a long-range kick in the third minute of added time, to pinch Joe Schmidt's side a victory that had appeared already lost.

Teddy Thomas' mazy solo try looked to have floored Ireland, as France conjured a 13-12 lead from nowhere in Jacques Brunel's first game as Les Bleus boss.

But just when Ireland appeared beaten, Sexton unleashed a stunning drop-goal to wrestle victory - and keep hopes alive of a Grand Slam decider with England at Twickenham on March 17.

Schmidt highlighted Earls role in Sexton's drop goal after he went to the clouds to secure a cross-field kick and gain the territory that led to that amazing kick.

"Huge character at the finish. To be able to drop out, get it back from Iain Henderson, play through so many phases, take the risk of putting in a cross-field kick, Keith Earls must have jumped three or four metres off the ground. He got up took that cleanly and I thought we may have earned a couple of penalties. There was one ball that it took eight second to get out at a ruck with a guy being told to roll away. We knew we weren't going to be given anything. Johnny thankfully stepped up and took it," he told TV3

"I think he showed all his character today and his skill. His temperament to stay calm in the moment and nail what we needed.

"I think the conditions, the lads were saying it was quite slippery. Josh van der Flier has a knee injury. I think Dupont has a knee injury, it certainly wasn't a head injury but it was treated as such.

"Those slippery surfaces make it hard to attack. I thought we started the game with a superb attack and got in behind them and it looked like we were in a positive frame of mind.

"The longer it went that we didn't get something for our efforts, the more frustrated we got and we lost our shape a bit."

Schmidt expects France to cause problems for their opponents for the remainder of the tournament after their brave defensive display.

"I think people underestimate how tough it is to get a win here. It's a new team under new management and they really wanted to prove something and I think they proved they are going to be difficult to beat here," he added.

"It's pivotal in the Championship. We saw Wales have a big win today. We've got to play Italy first and then we're straight into Wales. That's going to be another really tough game."

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