After his test career came to a heart breaking end with a narrow defeat to New Zealand on Saturday night, a visibly emotional Johnny Sexton spoke of his immense pride at putting on the Irish jersey for the 117th and final time.
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) October 15, 2023
On Saturday, Ireland lost out to the All Blacks 28-24.
While they never led in the game, the Boys in Green will reflect on some missed opportunities, with the Kiwis’ Jordie Barrett producing a heroic effort to hold Ireland’s Rónan Kelleher up, just metres away from the line.
“It’s gutting that we couldn’t finish it off. Going back to that maul, when you’re over the line, it’s tough to take”, Sexton said. “Just a kick, if you’re chasing a penalty, it’s a lot easier at the end, but we left it all out there at least”.
“I thought we had them a couple of times. Obviously to concede the turnover when we were so close to the line was gutting”, the Leinster man added.
“They [New Zealand] scrambled incredibly hard for each other. There were probably a couple of overlaps that we didn’t take full advantage of, but again, incredible to have the stakes so high and to go through that many phases just showed what this group is made of”.
“behind the team like no other”
Upon reflection, Johnny Sexton has stated that his main regret is that the team just could not get over the line, and give the huge Irish support the victory that they so craved.
“We [the Irish] get behind the team like no other. It’s incredible and it’s not wasted on us, and that’s why it is so hard to take really, that we didn’t give them another couple of weekends”, says Sexton.
He added, “But like Faz [Andy Farrell] said, it’s small margins and that’s sport. That’s life. It’s unfortunate but this group will bounce back”.
“They are an incredible bunch led by the man beside me. It’s the best group I have ever been apart of. Bar none”, he insisted.
“These guys will go on and achieve great things and I’ll be sitting in the stand having a pint like you lads”.
Such support for the team stretched far and beyond the 80,000 support in Paris, Irish band U2 showed their support, whilst at their Vegas residency.
More on that here.