Sexton bows out of 6N with slam and record but England fuming over ‘utter farce’
Ireland have completed their fourth-ever Six Nations grand slam with a 29-16 victory over England at the Aviva Stadium, emphatically underlining their status as the world’s... Ireland have completed their fourth-ever Six Nations grand slam with a 29-16 victory over England at the Aviva Stadium, underlining their status as the world's No.1 team heading into September's World Cup. Ireland finished ahead of France in second place and Scotland in third, while a third defeat for England left them in fourth place. Johnny Sexton was given the perfect send-off in his final Six Nations match as he also became the tournament’s all-time top points scorer. Earlier, France had ended their campaign with an emphatic 41-28 bonus-point victory over Wales at the Stade de France which sealed their second place in the table on 20 points, while Scotland beat Italy 26-14 to seal third place on 15 points ahead of England's 10 in fourth. England fans and former players were fuming over the match-turning red card after it was handed to England scrum-turned out Freddie Steward.
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Ireland have completed their fourth-ever Six Nations grand slam with a 29-16 victory over England at the Aviva Stadium, emphatically underlining their status as the world’s No.1 team heading into September’s World Cup.
Andy Farrell’s side were worthy of their clean sweep on Saturday, having won all of their games by 13 points or more and ending 2022 winners France’s 14-game unbeaten run along the way in one of the best championship games in recent memory.
Two tries from Dan Sheehan and one each from Robbie Henshaw and Rob Herring ensured Ireland finished ahead of France in second place and Scotland in third, while a third defeat for England left them in fourth place.
Best of all for home fans in the middle of St Patrick’s Day weekend celebrations, it was the first time Ireland had sealed the grand slam in Dublin, following Twickenham (2018), Cardiff (2009) and Belfast (1948).
Talismanic captain Johnny Sexton was given the perfect send-off in his final Six Nations match as he also became the tournament’s all-time top points scorer.
Earlier, France had ended their campaign with an emphatic 41-28 bonus-point victory over Wales at the Stade de France which sealed their second place in the table on 20 points, behind Ireland’s 27.
In the day’s first game, Scotland beat Italy 26-14 to seal third place on 15 points ahead of England’s 10 in fourth place.
Wales on six points were fifth, while Italy again propped up the table with just one point from their five matches.
The Ireland-England game turned in the hosts’ favour when Freddie Steward was sent off just before half-time for the visitors.
“Honestly, I couldn’t make it up. It’s like living in a dream – I’m actually worried I’m going to wake up in the morning,”said Sexton.
“We didn’t play our best, but what a team. What a team. What a group of coaches, they prepared us so well.
“We did nothing that they told us [in the win over England], we did the exact opposite. We made things hard for ourselves but, look, England are a top-class team.
“To come here and get a win on St Patrick’s weekend, it’s unbelievable. What a day. Unbelievable.”
Sexton, 37, will retire after the World Cup in France later this year.
Going into the game he was level with compatriot Ronan O’Gara on 557 6N points and he kicked three conversions and a penalty before limping off with 10 minutes remaining at the Aviva Stadium.
“Like I said in the week, this is what you dream of as a kid,” Sexton said. “To have my family here today watching, it’s dream-come-through stuff and I’m pinching myself.
“We set out to win the Grand Slam at the start of the year. We had a Triple Crown last year, we wanted to build on that and it came down to today.
“We talked about this day eight weeks ago and we finally got to the big final. We didn’t quite nail it but we did enough, and I’m so proud of the lads to stay in it. Thank you to everyone in here today, it was an unbelievable atmosphere.”
Sexton said his team was hell bent on winning the World Cup to cap a period of dominance.
“It’s an incredible group of people. We’re so proud to be Irish and when we come out here, we want to show that to everyone. I think we do that – win, lose or draw – and that’s the main thing,
“It doesn’t feel like the end. There’s plenty more left in this team to keep building. We certainly need to improve on today, we’ll be back and we’re going to need all this support in four or five months’ time.”
England fans and former players were fuming over Steward’s match-turning red card after his elbow hit Hugo Keenan in the head.
Former England scrum-half Matt Dawson said: “The officials are showing a lack of understanding of the game.
Dawson said Steward was trying his best not to make contact as he and Keenan flew towards each other.
“I can’t disagree with how the contact is a red but it is the context of how it went to that contact,” Dawson said on BBC Radio 5 Live.
“He is stepping and slowing and turning to get out of the contact area, and has been punished by being sent off. It is a mockery.
“He was doing his utmost to avoid any kind of contact. It is an utter farce.”
England captain Owen Farrell said the red card “seemed harsh”, but added: “It’s not for me to have an opinion on. They made the rules for a reason, that’s all I can say on it.”
Meanwhile in Paris, France ended their Six Nations campaign with an emphatic 41-28 bonus-point victory over Wales at the Stade de France.
Damian Penaud crossed twice, Jonathan Danty, Uini Atonio and Gael Fickou scored a try each and Thomas Ramos kicked the other points in Saturday’s campaign-ending match.
Wales, who looked to be heading for a much bigger loss early in the second half, fought back and finished with four tries by George North, Bradley Roberts, Tomos Williams and Rio Dyer, the other points coming from the boots of Dan Biggar and Leigh Halfpenny.
Wales made a perfect start, holding the ball as they worked through the phases and their domination was rewarded with North’s early try between the posts.
France’s reaction was as brutal as it was brilliant, a week after inflicting a record mauling on England at Twickenham.
On their first attacking move, Penaud collected a long pass from Antoine Dupont and crossed in the corner after Romain Ntamack had escaped several tackles to dance his way through the middle.
In a fierce battle, France built a lead through two Ramos penalties and as the visitors suffered physically, Danty added another try to extend the advantage to 13 points after Ramos’s conversion.
Danty dived over in the corner after quick movement of the ball wide out to the right.
France’s third try was a show of force as Atonio powered through to help Les Bleus steer further clear and Fickou claimed the fourth try after being set up by Ntamack.
The home side, however, took things a little too lightly and Wales made the most of it with a neat try by Roberts after Ramos’s overly-ambitious run from behind the try-line was quickly halted.
France’s casual approach was again punished when Williams scored the visitors’ third try from a lineout 10 metres from the French line.
Normal service resumed inside the final five minutes as Penaud touched down in the corner again and Ramos converted to give France a 20-point lead.
But Dyer surged through in the last minute and Halfpenny converted to reduce the gap to 13 points.