Johnny Sexton says being part of something never achieved in beating New Zealand at home last weekend was the standout moment in a glittering 2018.

The Ireland and Leinster out-half scooped the Rugby Writers Player of the Year just days after Joe Schmidt’s side got the better of the All Blacks for the first time in Dublin.

The 33-year-old World Rugby Player of the Year nominee claimed the Guinness Pro 14 and Champions Cup double with Leinster, a Grand Slam with Ireland, a first series win on Australian soil since 1979 and capped it off with the absorbing 16-9 victory over the world champions.

Little wonder he says it has been a "remarkable" year for Irish rugby.

"Everything that has happened has been more special because of what has gone on before," he told RTÉ  Sport’s Michael Corcoran.

"You win the Grand Slam, and then to go on and achieve what we did with Leinster was special. Maybe some other teams might have said, ‘we’re happy with that’ and rested on their laurels, but we kicked on," referencing the series win Down Under.

"The highlight for me was last Saturday. It was almost like a final in some ways. It was the final game for Ireland for a lot of us this year against the best team."

Sexton says the vibe was different to any other game he has been involved in, beginning at the team hotel before making their way to the stadium.

"The atmosphere was something I have never experienced before. I’m not sure I ever will again," he said.

"Instead of maybe three people deep each side when you are walking down the corridor, it was packed. You see just how much it meant to those people. Immediately you are like, ‘let’s go’.

Sexton referenced the respect shown by the fans and players for the Haka and was taken aback by the what happened immediately after the full-time whistle.

"To see every single person stay in the stadium 10 minutes after the final whistle...I’ve never seen it before. We finished it off in style back at the Shelbourne. It was a great night all round."

Having been part of an Ireland team that defeated Steve Hansen’s side two years ago, as well as a win and a draw in Lions colours, it wasn’t an entirely new experience for the out-half.

"Winning a Grand Slam is special, but it’s been done before. You are emulating"

Still, the fact that Ireland broke new ground elevates the achievement above all others according to the player himself.

"You always want to do things that are special in your career. To beat them for the first time in Chicago that was special. Winning a Grand Slam is special, but it’s been done before. You are emulating.

"To be on the first team to beat them in Ireland was probably the most special thing because it’s in front of all your family and friends. Chicago was brilliant, but Saturday was extra special."

"It’s nice to be nominated and win, but it’s opinion...The great thing about winning is it’s fact"

A humble Sexton was at pains to pay tribute to both team-mates and coaches in accepting his Rugby Writers accolade but appreciates the recognition of his performances on the pitch.

"Sometimes you can get on the end of a few scores and it is blown up," he said. "It’s nice to be nominated and win, but it’s opinion. That’s the beauty of it. Not everyone is going to agree with it.

"The great thing about winning is it’s fact. You have a trophy and you’ll always have that."

Follow Ireland v USA via our liveblog on RTÉ.ie/sport and the News Now app, watch live on RTÉ2 and the RTÉ Player or listen to live commentary on RTÉ Radio 1 this Saturday (kick-off 6.30pm)