Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Sexton’s masterclass for Ireland highlights French deficiencies

Sexton’s masterclass for Ireland highlights French deficiencies

Ireland fly-half Jonathan Sexton (No10) celebrates with teammate Bundee Aki after scoring a drop goal to win the Six Nations rugby union match between France and Ireland at the Stade de France in Paris on Saturday.
Ireland fly-half Jonathan Sexton (No10) celebrates with teammate Bundee Aki after scoring a drop goal to win the Six Nations rugby union match between France and Ireland at the Stade de France in Paris on Saturday.

Sexton’s masterclass for Ireland highlights French deficiencies

Johnny Sexton’s last gasp winning drop goal in the Six Nations in Paris highlighted the glaring gap in France’s faltering team.

With the clock ticking into the third minute of red beyond the scheduled 80 minutes, Ireland calmly and clinically marched up the field, orchestrated by the unflappable Sexton and gained the field position he needed to send a 40-metre drop goal slicing between the uprights.
It was a stunning moment that broke French hearts and left their players slumped on the turf in despair.

Just 10 minutes earlier, a converted try from Teddy Thomas, whose arcing run and injection of raw pace had carried him over the line for the only try of an otherwise turgid affair, looked set to give the hosts a most unlikely victory.

France even had the chance to extend their lead to four points with two minutes to go – which would have left Ireland needing a try to win.

But where Sexton was to show pinpoint accuracy, replacement French fy-half Anthony Belleau wavered and sent his penalty wide of the uprights.

If only France had a playmaker of Sexton’s calibre – something they’ve lacked since the days of Frederic Michalak in his pomp – things could have been so different.

The 21-year-old Belleau had been thrust into the action earlier than he would otherwise have expected after teenage debutant Matthieu Jalibert – a shock selection by new coach Jacques Brunel – went off after just half an hour with a knee injury.

But it was the difference between the opposing fly-halves’ game management that proved decisive and a glance at the official statistics speaks volumes.

Ireland enjoyed twice as much possession and territorial advantage as their hosts. That was crucial because when France gave away penalties, it was in a dangerous area presenting Sexton with easy kicks at goal that allowed the visitors to exert scoreline pressure.

The Irish led 12-3 at one point and had a chance for a 15-6 lead, but Sexton screwed that kick wide in the only blip of an otherwise faultless performance.

It was his tactical kicking, in a match in which line breaks were at a premium and defences dominated, that allowed Ireland to occupy vital territory.

Few decisions to make

By contrast, Jalibert seemed to be forcing the issue from less ball in hand in worse positions, with one chip over Ireland’s high defensive line poorly executed and coughing up possession cheaply. “He didn’t do that well,” admitted Brunel.

Jalibert helped create France’s one half-chance in the first period but his sideways running squeezed wing Virimi Vakatawa into a tight spot, forcing him to attempt a chip and chase, which he sent straight out of play.

But overall, the teenager’s debut was a largely anonymous affair as France spent much time defending.

“In the first half hour we had a bit less of the ball than Ireland so he didn’t have many decisions to make,” Brunel added.

Belleau, when he entered the fray, was starved of possession and fluffed his lines in one of only two kicks at goal – a miss that proved crucial.

That allowed Ireland one last possession but only after they had won back Sexton’s 22 drop out.

From there, they struggled to get out of their own half until a perfectly weighted Sexton cross-kick was gathered by a leaping Keith Earls.

Now up to the France 10-metre line, Ireland were within penalty striking distance, forcing France to be less aggressive at the breakdown, meaning the visitors easily held the ball through more than 40 phases.

With France’s defence holding firm, it fell on Sexton to try his luck with a long-range drop goal.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. When Ireland needed him most, Sexton displayed his talent to its fullest and Ireland’s championship quest remains on track.

“Our goals would have crumbled today if we had lost,” said Sexton, the rock on which the Irish foundations are based

MOST VIEWED

  • Over $3M in traffic fines collected in two months

    Traffic police officers collected over $3 million in fines throughout the Kingdom during the past two months when officers strictly enforced the law in accordance with a May sub-decree, officials said. As incentives, law enforcement officers received between 200,000 and two million riel ($50 to $500) each. The figures

  • More than 10,000 workers suspended

    More than 10,000 workers at 18 factories in Svay Rieng province have been suspended because of Covid-19, said provincial deputy governor Ros Pharith. Home to 11 special economic zones, Pharith said Svay Rieng has not been spared as the pandemic takes a toll on the global economy. “There

  • Nod given for school exams

    The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport announced that State-run higher educational institutions can hold examinations to end the academic year, while private schools can organise grade 9 and grade 12 examinations at their premises for two days. However, private institutions have to take measures to prevent

  • Oz lauds Kingdom’s passage of money laundering laws

    In a press release published by the Australian embassy in Phnom Penh on Monday, the country applauded Cambodia’s stance on transnational crimes as well as its promulgation of an anti-money laundering law and a law on combating proliferation financing. The praise came after King

  • Lotus face masks designed to cover globe

    A French designer in Cambodia has produced ecological face masks from lotus fibre to supply local and international markets with an eye on preserving ancestral techniques and supporting Cambodian women in rural communities. During a trip to Asia, Awen Delaval, an eco-friendly fashion designer, was

  • Accused not treated equally, says CCHR

    The Cambodia Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) has urged the Court of Appeal to do more to ensure that an accused’s right to a fair trial is fully respected. In a bulletin released on Monday, the CCHR said it had monitored 273 cases at the

  • Fish, frogs to boost local food supply

    The government has disbursed more than $4.5 million to boost aquaculture production and domestic market supply amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon told The Post on Monday that in boosting agricultural production, the ministry has received financing from development partners

  • Planning ministry hands out cash to 420,000 poor families in Kingdom

    The Ministry of Planning has identified 20,000 more poor families in the country, bringing the total to over 580,000, while over 420,000 of them have received the government’s cash assistance. In the meantime, many social security cards from families not deemed to be poor have been revoked.

  • Nature in focus at inaugural film and photo festival

    The first Cambodian Wildlife Photo and Film Festival – an event celebrating the conservation of nature through the eyes of wildlife photographers, nature enthusiasts and conservation experts – is scheduled for July 18-26 at Fauna in Focus’ Nature Discovery Centre in Siem Reap. The festival will be

  • Investors’ $14.4M projects approved

    New investments from local and foreign sources continue to pour into Cambodia despite the Covid-19 pandemic remaining a lingering threat to regional and global economies. This comes as the Kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to contract between one and 2.9 per cent this