Thursday 22 March 2018

WATCH: The top five greatest-ever drop goals - Where does Johnny Sexton's Paris gem rank?

Johnny Sexton celebrates and (inset) Jonny Wilkinson kicks England to World Cup glory in 2003
Johnny Sexton celebrates and (inset) Jonny Wilkinson kicks England to World Cup glory in 2003

Des Berry

Johnny Sexton's drop goal might just be the greatest in the history of the game.

Sure, there have been more important strikes for Ireland.

Ronan O'Gara's clipped drop to clinch the 2009 Grand Slam may never be surpassed.

There are the World Cup winners from South Africa's Joel Stransky in 1995 and Jonny Wilkinson's posts-splitter in 2003.

All have them carry more significance.

However, none can match Sexton's for the start-to-finish drama, from Ireland's 22, through 41 phases and three kicks, on a rain-sodden surface, in the cauldron of Stade de France with the clock long gone red.  


Six Nations: Wales 15 Ireland 17, Millennium Stadium, March 2009

For pure meaning, there is nothing to cap the out-half's drop goal to clinch Ireland's second Grand Slam, the first for 61 years.

Wales out-half Stephen Jones had just landed a 75th-minute drop goal to put Ireland in a bind.  

There was composure in the way Ireland inched forward, slowly crabbing right until the time was right.  

Of course, the finest attribute to Peter Stringer's skills set was his pass and the scrum-half arrowed the ball to his Munster colleague.

O'Gara received, dropped and booted the ball from right on the 22-metre whitewash in a smooth skill transition that had Cardiff explode in delirium with just over two minutes left on the clock. Of course, it wasn't the final piece of drama as somehow Paddy Wallace handed Jones a penalty which came up short with the clock turned red.


1999 World Cup semi-final: Australia 27 South Africa 21

The Wallaby's first international drop goal was a thing of beauty for it was as unexpected as it was extremely unorthodox.

The tense semi-final had ended in a 21-all stalemate after 80 minutes, forcing extra-time at Twickenham. 

The second-to-last score was the difference-maker and came as a shot completely out of the blue.

Australia were not making much ground just beyond halfway when George Gregan fed his out-half a shortish 10-metre pass moving to the right.

The fact Larkham refused to step back in the pocket led the Springboks to believe it would be a running play.

Instead, the mercurial playmaker clutched Gregan's pass, steadied and snapped three points from fully 48 metres out to give them the edge in extra-time. 


2003 World Cup final: England 20 Australia 17 

Clive Woodward transformed England from a forward-oriented 10-man machine to one with wider, more expansive solutions.

Even so, when it came down to it, their stellar collection of men had to turn to old ways to eventually shake off the Wallabies.

It is a magical moment as an action of skill because left-footed Wilkinson, a self-confessed obsessive compulsive when it came to the game, executed the greatest moment in English rugby with his right foot. 

The actual strike itself is slightly undermined by the fact it was his fourth attempt at a drop goal as England reverted to type in order to put their best player in the best position.  


1995 World Cup final: South Africa 15 New Zealand 12

The All Blacks, the heaviest of favourites, were strangely underpowered – there was post-match speculation about deliberate food poisoning – and

just couldn't get away on the scoreboard.

The Nelson Mandela-inspired Springboks brought every ounce of their muscle to make the game a war of wills.

When the nations couldn't be separated at the end of 80 minutes, the extra-time signalled a nerve-tingling endgame.

Neither nation could rise above the tension in that it became a chess game in which not making a mistake became more important than making a break.   

Eventually, scrum-half Joost van der Westhuizen found Stransky 30 metres out to the right of the posts.

The out-half caught the ball sweetly and it sailed high and true between the poles two minutes into the second period of extra time. 



Six Nations: France 13 Ireland 15, Stade de France, February 2018

For all the speculation about the sorry state of French rugby, Ireland have never had it easy in Paris.

It would have been easy to fall back into a victim mindset, especially given France had not lost their first home match in the championship since 1974. 

This is where the repetition of drills and the Joe Schmidt ‘do your job' mantra kicked in.

The methodical, steady march was peppered with good, basic decisions and the right man, not necessarily in the right place, to kick a drop goal for the ages.  

Herald Sport

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