Sexton hails 'brilliant' victory over Welsh

4 min

Dublin (AFP)

Johnny Sexton said Ireland's 24-14 victory over Wales which ended Welsh hopes of a repeat Six Nations Grand Slam was "brilliant", with a little bit of everything in it.

The 34-year-old Irish talisman had scored all their points in the opening win over Scotland, but this time his team-mates did him proud running in four tries for a bonus point win.

It kept their hopes alive of a second Slam in three years.

"Yeah, it would not be hard after last year," replied Sexton, smiling when asked whether he had enjoyed the victory after Wales' 25-7 victory over Ireland for the Grand Slam in the 2019 season.

"It was brilliant, it had a bit of everything.

"It had some of the stuff we did not put out against the Scots.

"Our back three stuck to the tactics really well.

"When you get on the edge the temptation is always to run but they made their decisions really well.

"The most important thing for us is building momentum.

"The biggest challenge is ahead in a fortnight (against England) at Twickenham)."

Sexton, who last year like Ireland saw his form slip from the heady heights of his winning the World Player of the Year in 2018, praised his long-time half-back partner Conor Murray for being pivotal in the victory.

Murray -- who has partnered Sexton a national record 58 times -- answered his growing band of critics with an assured performance and his trademark box kicks kept the Welsh under pressure.

"He was outstanding," said Sexton.

"He was brilliant all day.

"His sniping off the maul gave us great field position to build pressure on them.

"His box kicking which suddenly was being criticised well it won us the game in the second-half.

"It also created pressure on them.

"I am delighted for him."

Sexton said it was not a case of throwing everything out under new coach Andy Farrell that his predecessor Joe Schmidt had introduced during his highly successful tenure that ended with a World Cup quarter-final exit.

"We are trying to develop something," said Sexton.

"Saying that some of the messages coming out of our camp have not been what they should be.

"To suggest we have thrown away everything is wrong: there is a good balance."

- 'In a great place' -

For his part Farrell said he was pleased with an improved performance from the edgy 19-12 win over Scotland.

However, most of his praise was for Sexton and his captaincy which, again, some had questioned.

"He is in control like he has been all his life," said Farrell.

"I think it has added to his game being captain.

"His meeting last night with the players is as he sees fit to do.

"What he drags out of the team is remarkable, that trust and honesty.

"Having seen his last two performances especially his previous one was nothing short of sensational."

Farrell, whose work as Ireland defence coach was praised for being the basis for their 2018 Grand Slam as well as two wins over New Zealand, is under no illusions about the toughness of the task facing them against England.

However, he is happy with where the team is.

"I think we're in a great place," he said.

"We've had two wins. We saw an improved performance today.

"But we know, the boys sat there in the changing room after a bonus-point win, know there is still plenty more in us."

His Wales counterpart Wayne Pivac bemoaned a plethora of handling errors and said there would need to be a marked improvement for their match with France in a fortnight.

The New Zealander -- who revealed fly-half Dan Biggar was going through HIA protocols and wing Josh Adams injured a hip -- said Hadleigh Parkes's failure to apply pressure on the ball when going to touch down for a try in the second-half was pivotal.

"It was a big decision (by the TMO) but it was right," he said.

"He did not have control.

"If it had bee given with 20 minutes to go it was game on."