/ Rugby

Jonathan Sexton ready for final fling

Updated: Sunday, 17 Jun 2012 13:55 | Comments

Jonathan Sexton and Ireland will have a third crack at New Zealand next Saturday in Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Jonathan Sexton and Ireland will have a third crack at New Zealand next Saturday in Waikato Stadium, Hamilton

Jonathan Sexton missed out on his chance to kick Ireland to a maiden Test victory over New Zealand in yesterday’s second Test, but he is eager for one more chance to topple the world champions.

The fly-half kicked 14 points and made the most yard gains for his side but fell short with a penalty attempt from the halfway line, which would have put Ireland three points clear.

His kick came up agonisingly short and it was left to Dan Carter, his opposite number, to slot over a drop goal in the final minute to win it 22-19 for New Zealand and give them a 2-0 lead in the three-match series.

"We're pretty disappointed with the result," said Sexton.

"It is a tough one to take but we've got one more Test against them so we need to bounce back one more time.

"We saw a big improvement from the first to the second Test but I still think we made a lot of mistakes out there.

"We can improve again and we need to come back stronger next week."

The tone was set in the early stages for an Irish display that would dwarf the showing at Eden Park in the first Test.

With nine minutes on the clock, referee Nigel Owens blew for a penalty following an All Black infringement against a driving maul.

Sexton had a quick discussion with his captain, Brian O'Driscoll, before opting to kick for an attacking line-out, rather than take the three points on offer. The decision was validated a minute later as scrum-half Conor Murray sniped over to score.

"We had a very good, driving maul beforehand," he said.

"Brian asked what I thought we should do so I said: 'Put it in the corner'.

"We decided to go for it and it paid off, obviously, and put a bit of pressure on the All Blacks."

Sexton revealed that there was an abundance of confidence and positivity in the Irish dressing room at the break, as his side led 10-9, but they allowed New Zealand to edge in front.

"We gave them a very soft try straight after half-time, which was the worst thing we possibly could have done," he said.

"We went six points behind but I was proud of the way we bounced back from that."

Sexton and his team-mates recognised that it was a safer option to retain possession and attempt line breaks rather than play for territory.

"The referee was awarding the team with the ball a lot and it was hard to get the ball back," said Sexton.

"He wasn't rewarding the team in defence, it was more penalising them. When we began to hold the ball again in the second half we looked good and we got a few penalties."

The 26-year-old's chance to write himself into Irish rugby folklore came when he addressed a penalty one yard inside the All Black half right after Israel Dagg had been sent to the sin-bin.

"I probably needed to strike it 100% for it to go over in those conditions," he said.

"It was a cold night and a 50-metre kick, even longer on the angle, so I knew I had to hit it absolutely perfectly for it to go over.

"They are the type of kicks that you have to step up and take but I didn't catch it perfectly. It wasn't the worst strike I've ever made; it was on target but just a metre and a bit short."

Ireland's coach Declan Kidney preferred not to dwell on any of the Owens' calls that hastened his side's retreat into their own half in the closing stages.

Sexton was similarly stoical.

"We'll sit down during the week and look at all of those (decisions)," he commented.

"It is hard to describe what went on in the game straight after. It is all a bit of a blur.

"It was a tough game, physically, and one of the most disappointing results I've ever been involved in."

Ireland will have to make do without Jamie Heaslip and Gordon D`Arcy next week, though.

D’Arcy has a calf strain and has been replaced in the squad by Paddy Wallace, while Heaslip has damaged a finger.

User contributions and/or comments do not, unless specifically stated, represent the views of RTÉ.ie or RTÉ.
Click here for Terms of use
Powered by NewsWhip