Wales pundit sticks it to Johnny Sexton after Cardiff shocker
Up on a pedestal as the reigning World Rugby Player of the Year, some rivals are delighting in bringing Ireland's No.10 back to earth.
Johnny Sexton lasted 73 minutes at the Principality Stadium, on Saturday, as Ireland were well beaten by Wales. The outhalf's head looked to have gone a long, long time before that.
Usually the master conductor, and prompter, Sexton withdrew into a muttering, cursing shell after a first 40 minutes that left him, and Ireland, shook.
In five games, Sexton made 32 carries for 50 metres with two clean breaks, three defenders beaten and two offloads. He stuck 33 tackles, in defence, and mixed six. He scored 23 points in this year's championship, well shy of his 44 in 2018.
The numbers show it has been a less than stellar Guinness Six Nations but it is clear to see from his performances that something is not right.
He was not the only Ireland player left shell-shocked and wounded by a ramped up England, in Dublin, last month but that was a game to forget. He did well, despite taking heavy shots in the process, against Scotland but looked frustrated at off-key against Italy. He scored a try and grew into the game, last weekend, as France took a pounding at the Aviva Stadium but the Wales game was his worst of the championship.
Nothing went right for Sexton - conceding penalties, kicking out on the full, restarting poorly, barracking the referee, getting bounced back on carries and ran over by Welsh ball carriers - and one wonders if he is carrying an injury. He did not play for five weeks, coming into the championship, and looked off-colour when he did play.
After coming off in the Italy win, both thighs and hamstrings were wrapped in cellophane with ice packs. He could do with a light summer after finishing up the season with Leinster.
Given his combative, vociferous nature, many Welsh fans and pundits delighted in Sexton having a rough afternoon. There were cheers from the home fans as, just before half-time, the Ireland 10 was replayed, in slow motion, telling ref Angus Gardner exactly what he thought of another penalty decision against his side.
Following Wales' Grand Slam-clinching 25-7 victory, Wales on Sunday pundit Graham Price declared:
"Ireland got frustrated and argumentative... with their normally mild-mannered captain Rory Best losing his cool and their talisman Johnny Sexton losing the plot. Sexton normally spends much of his time moaning about everybody else so he can expect to have it thrown back at him after having an absolute shocker.
"He sets his standards high but he was arguably Ireland's worst player with the paucity of his display rubbing off on his colleagues."
As damning a few sentences as they come but Sexton, we are sure, would admit Saturday was not his finest display in the green jersey, a jersey he has so often delivered for on big occasions.
Not much time for Sexton to sit and stew, however. The Guinness PRO14 returns next weekend and, after that, Leinster host Ulster at the Aviva Stadium in a Champions Cup quarter final.
The world's best player may have to grit his teeth and play himself back into form.