A fairytale ending for Ireland’s ‘best ever’

Henry

Johnny Sexton played the full 80 minutes in Ireland’s World Cup encounter against New Zealand at the Stade de France.

But when the final whistle finally blew after the Irish built up a host of phases in their futile search for the winning streak, the 38-year-old flyhalf’s illustrious career ended in yet another quarter-final defeat for his beloved team.

“You have to work very hard to ensure a fairy-tale ending, but we just couldn’t get the hang of it. However, we left no stone unturned, we trained incredibly hard and there was a tick next to every lovely requirement box. Yet things in life don’t always work out the way we want them to,” Sexton said.

In his final World Cup tournament, the battle horse scored 58 points and scored three tries – he was still a very dangerous opponent.

“Johnny is pure class. He is the true game leader of his team and he has a say in more or less everything that happens on the field,” New Zealand’s Richie Mo’unga said in the run-up to the quarter-final.

Sexton made his debut for Leinster in 2006 and since then he has won four Champions Cups and six Pro14 titles, while walking away with the Six Nations four times with Ireland.

No wonder he is so highly regarded – not only in Ireland, but also on the international stage.

“Johnny is first of all an incredible person. At the same time, he is probably the best player ever to play for Ireland; it says a lot about you as a player when you’re still producing top performances at the age of 38,” Ireland coach Andy Farrell said.

Sexton is obviously proud of his career, but he desperately wanted to hold up the Webb Ellis trophy for his country.

“The past six weeks have been a dream with the players and supporters. I’m very disappointed that we couldn’t win for them.”

Yes, there was an outburst or two (or three) and he may have talked to the referee a little too much, but Jonathan Jeremiah Sexton played with pure rugby passion for Ireland and Leinster.

Sexton’s career stats:

Matches: 124

Points: 1,113

Threes: 19

Goals: 182

World Cup matches: 136 points in 17 Tests.