Tuesday 20 February 2018

We deserved to lose - Sexton

Jonathan Sexton, left, does not lay any blame at Leigh Halfpenny's door
Jonathan Sexton, left, does not lay any blame at Leigh Halfpenny's door

Jonathan Sexton pulled no punches after the British and Irish Lions were agonisingly denied Test series glory against Australia.

Full-back Leigh Halfpenny missed a penalty from halfway with the game's final kick at Etihad Stadium, and Australia claimed a nerve-jangling 16-15 victory that guarantees a series showdown in Sydney next Saturday.

The Lions led until five minutes from time when centre Adam Ashley-Cooper scored a try that Christian Leali'ifano converted. And Australia now have momentum with them in their quest to deny the Lions a first Test series triumph since they beat South Africa 16 years ago. "We are all pretty devastated to be honest," Lions fly-half Sexton said.

"We are all bitterly disappointed because we know just how close we came. It's a tough one to take, but if we are honest with ourselves then we have to say we didn't play well enough. We didn't control the set-piece well enough and we all made mistakes. We didn't deserve to win, it's as simple as that."

Halfpenny cut a disconsolate figure as referee Craig Joubert's final whistle sounded, but Sexton, who has scored more than 300 points for Ireland and knows all about pressure kicks, was full of empathy with his team-mate.

"Leigh had a long-range attempt, but it was always going to be a tough ask for him to hit that," Sexton added. "It was from all of 50 metres or so. It was an extremely difficult kick for him. It didn't come down to one kick - we need to examine how we played.

"We probably felt he could get the kick, and Leigh felt he could too. We've seen him knock them over from that kind of distance before, but it's right on his range.

"It was a very tough kick, and you have to also remember how tired he must have been right at the death. It's small margins, but like I say, you can't look at one man. There was plenty wrong with our performance as a team.

"We were 1-0 up and we should have gone 2-0 up, and we didn't. At times it felt we were wishing the game to finish, rather than going out and going after it. That's how I felt, anyway."

The Lions saw their captain Sam Warburton go off nursing a hamstring problem 13 minutes from time. Sexton said: "Hopefully, Sam is not too bad. It will be disappointing if he is out (next weekend). He was brilliant in the game."

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