ANALYSIS: Sheer Irish heroics through 41 phases to tee up Sexton's drop goal 5 years ago

ANALYSIS: Sheer Irish heroics through 41 phases to tee up Sexton's drop goal

At 77:28, Ireland began.

13-12 behind but with one last throw of the dice, Ireland set off from their 22-metre line.


5 minutes and 20 seconds later and they had won the match. Johnny Sexton was wheeling away towards his own tryline and watching his own drop goal replay on the big screen. He had just clinched victory for Ireland in Paris after one of those special moments that will now forever be in our rugby folklore.

Before we get to the drop goal, though, we go back to the start... the re-start after Anthony Belleau had missed a 77th minute penalty.

Here are the big plays, moments and heroes from Ireland's incredible 41 phase drive to tee up Sexton's matchwinner:

PHASE 1: Henderson claims the re-start and Ireland start to advance 


PHASES 2-3: Conor Murray feeds Peter O'Mahony for a carry then finds Sexton. The outhalf spins play wide to Bundee Aki, who fakes a pass and takes the ball into contact.

PHASE 4: Murray to Sean Cronin but the hooker is stopped short.

PHASE 5: Sexton takes the next pass and does a one-two with CJ Stander before spinning away from Cedate Gomes Sa [No.18] and Dany Priso [17] for a line break.


PHASE 6: Less than two minutes of regular play to go. Murray appeals for a penalty - Pelissie not rolling away - but referee Nigel Owens is unmoved. The scrum-half then plays to Sexton and the ball moves through the hands of O'Mahony, Stander and Dan Leavy before Aki is taken to ground.

PHASES 7-8: Another truck from Cronin and Robbie Henshaw comes in to find Jack McGrath who gets over the gainline, with O'Mahony clearing out excellently.

PHASE 9-10: With a French player down receiving treatment on the right flank, Murray comes inside to Stander. Not expecting the ball, he goes into contact low and presents quick ball - it's the best he can do. Rob Kearney is next to have a dart but he is quickly felled.


PHASE 12-13: Murray to Sexton to Stander and the Ireland No.8 knocks Gomes Sa on his rump. Henshaw does not fare as well on his next carry after opting not to pass to Fergus McFadden and cutting inside.

PHASE 14: Stander again and he gets his team on the front foot again. Still, at 79:17 on the clock, Ireland are still 10 metres short of the French half.

PHASE 15: Murray to Sexton to Aki but Ireland driven back a yard. At this point, Iain Henderson and Keith Earls clear out the ruck very well and give Murray breathing room.

PHASE 16-17: Welcome to the party Devin Toner. Shows for a carry but does not make much ground. Murray and Sexton combine before the Ireland No.10 flicks a crisp pass to Henshaw after O'Mahony's dummy run. Progress! Henshaw makes metres.


PHASE 18: John Ryan on the charge and he gains another metre. Great ruck work again by Ireland and they are two metres from halfway with the clock at 79;49.

PHASE 19-21: McFadden has come looking for work. He gets his team to halfway, with the help of Toner and Leavy in support. Ireland go back on the next phase - a Cronin carry - and Henderson is the next forward brought down with zero change given. The clock is now RED!

PHASE 22-23: Murray to Sexton to Aki but the centre is dumped and Ireland are looking in bother. Stander carries next, driving the legs to gain a metre. Toner forceful with the clear-out again.

PHASE 24: The 'Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?!' play as Murray gets quick ball to Sexton and he launches a hugely ambitious but spot-on cross-field kick to Earls. The winger soars to claim cleanly, leaves Virimi Vakatawa for dead then steps around Henry Chavancy. Clean break, 20 metres gained and Ireland are within sight of the French 22.

Game ON!

PHASE 25: It all nearly goes to pot on the next phase but Conor Murray does a good job of conversing with Owens when John Ryan is buried under a mountain of blue and green jerseys. He manages to retrieve the ball and find Aki. Just before that, you will see [below] that Sexton has gone down to stretch his leg.

PHASES 26-28: Aki passes to Leavy and he fends off Marco Tauleigne before being taken down. Murray digs in and passes to Toner, who gets missle-tackled in the ankles by Gomes Sa. Murray to O'Mahony but Ireland are struggling, now, to get past the French 10-metre line.

PHASE 29-30: Murray goes right to McGrath then left to Stander but neither carry makes much of an impression.

PHASES 31-32: McGrath trucks forward again, with little return. Ireland then get ambitious with the ball going through the hands of Murray, O'Mahony, Sexton and Aki before the Connacht centre is repelled.

PHASES 33-34: Very good carry from O'Mahony gains Ireland four metres at a time when they were in danger of being driven back into their own half. Murray then exchanges passes with McFadden before going on a snipe. With their scrum-half on the deck, Big Dev cameos in the role.

PHASES 35-36: Leavy makes a few inches but the French crowd are sensing that this could be their day and 'La Marseillaise' starts to ring out, louder and louder. O'Mahony - the Munster warhorse - is getting a feel for the fight now and makes two metres on another carry. Getting his team on the front-foot again.

PHASES 37-39: Henderson can't make major in-roads but O'Mahony squirrels for another gain, inches this time, on his next carry. Next up, it's Henderson again and these metres gained are vital. He vaults the swipe from Pelissie and Ireland are rumbling again. 36 metres from the tryline with the clock at 82:29.

PHASE 40: Stander makes his sixth carry of the Irish drive and Murray is getting a holler from behind. Twice he quickly looks back. Stander has rolled and scrapped for a couple of extra metres that will prove so, so crucial.

PHASE 41: Sexton is back in the pocket. It is the exact spot where he had stretched his cramping legs two minutes before. He is 46 metres out when he receives the pass from Murray but his kicking strides move him closer before the ball takes off.

Is it good? Is it hell!

GAME OVER: Ireland win 15-13.

Sexton sprints off, arms aloft. He is soon caught by Earls and Kearney and the rest pile on.

A winning start and an awful lot of players stepping up.


  • Iain Henderson - 3 carries, 1 line break
  • Peter O'Mahony - 5 carries, 1 line break
  • Johnny Sexton - 1 carry, 14 passes, 1 line break, 1 cross-field kick, 1 drop goal
  • Bundee Aki - 5 carries, 1 pass
  • Sean Cronin - 3 carries
  • CJ Stander - 6 carries, 2 passes
  • Dan Leavy - 2 carries, 1 pass
  • Robbie Henshaw - 2 carries, 1 pass
  • Jack McGrath - 2 carries
  • Rob Kearney - 1 carry
  • Conor Murray - 27 passes, 1 carry
  • Devin Toner - 2 carries, 1 pass
  • John Ryan - 2 carries
  • Fergus McFadden - 1 carry, 1 pass
  • Keith Earls - 1 carry, 1 line break

All 15 men were involved in getting their team over the line. As Conor Murray said, post-match:

"You just focus from next job to next job, and it was extremely clinical by us, because on a dry day it's far easier.

"A lot of credit has to go to our forwards for controlling the ball in such greasy conditions, I thought it was really really impressive. You're in a flow situation, and you know the lads around you know exactly what to do."

It might have been a nerve-jangler for fans watching at the ground and on TV, but this Irish team has winning in the blood.