Johnny Sexton's reaction to adversity knows no earthly bounds 1 year ago

Johnny Sexton's reaction to adversity knows no earthly bounds

Johnny Sexton is as driven as they come.

Against Wales, with his goal-kicking gone to pot, he could have sat back and let his teammates carry the attack to Wales. He had won Ireland enough games over recent years - France springing immediately o mind - but it was not looking like his day.

Sexton was carrying a knock into the game and it clearly affected a kicking game that is usually up there with one of the best in Test rugby. Still, as James Downey noted on The Hard Yards, that did not stop Sexton from contributing in a big way to Ireland's third Six Nations win of this championship.

"He really stepped up," said Downey.

"Okay, for me as a centre, I don't really want my 10 to carry as much as that. He may have got caught up in the heat of the moment but he was reacting to some of the Welsh defensive tactics as well... For a 10, he carried a hell of a lot of ball and made a couple of breaks. It was an all-action performance from him." 

Last laugh

Gareth Davies is a talker. Of that, there is no doubt.

The Scarlets scrum-half can constantly be heard - from the stands, across the referee's microphone or on TV - marshalling his backline, barking at his pack, pleading with match officials or winding up the opposition.

Half backs can be quite mouthy. For many, it's part of the job description. You have to be seen and heard out there.

Davies fits that mold but he let himself get a bit too carried away before and during the Ireland game. The Wales No.9, as we previously reported, was talking up his side for a bonus point win in Dublin but ended up on a side with nothing to show for their efforts at Lansdowne Road.

Instead, it was Ireland that claimed all five points. With 33 minutes on the clock, it was looking good for Davies and Wales.

The scrum-half had scored a try under the posts and his team led 13-5. Johnny Sexton's kicking radar was askew and Ireland had little to show for their superior possession, territory and time in the Welsh 22.

On 34 minutes, Sexton consulted with Ireland captain Rory Best and opted to go for the posts. 11 metres out and straight in front of his target, Sexton finally landed his first successful kick of the match. Davies was right out on top of him and ribbed the outhalf about his shaky start.

Credit: TV3

As Davies chased up after him, Sexton jogged off but aimed a few barbs back in his direction as he handed Ireland skills coach Richie Murphy his kicking tee.

It was fairly light-hearted stuff - 'Close one!', 'Oooohh' - but typical of the Welsh scrum-half and one of his predecessors in the red No.9 jersey, Mike Phillips.

Within 10 minutes of that encounter, Davies must have been regretting his comments. Ireland had already scored through Bundee Aki, with Sexton converting, to go in 15-13 up at half-time. They poured on the pain after the break.

Sexton delayed a pass, out wide on the right, to put Rob Kearney through a gap and spark an attacking surge that eventually led to him and Rory Best helping flanker Dan Leavy power over the line. It was right under the posts and would give Sexton an easy conversion.

And who happened to be right under Sexton's nose when he was loudly celebrating? One Gareth Davies.

Over that conversion sailed too. Although it would be Sexton's last scoring contribution, it had been a 14-point turnaround in the space of 10 minutes.

Davies' cough was considerably softened for the remainder of the match.