Brave effort falls short for Jonathan Sexton as New Zealand edge it
JONATHAN Sexton missed out on his chance to kick Ireland to a maiden Test victory over New Zealand in Saturday’s second Test, but he is eager for one more chance to topple the world champions.
The fly-half kicked 14 points and made the most yard gains for his side but fell short with a penalty attempt from the halfway line, which would have put Ireland three points clear.
His kick came up agonisingly short and it was left to Dan Carter, his opposite number, to slot over a drop goal in the final minute to win it 22-19 for New Zealand and give them a 2-0 lead in the three-match series.
“We’re pretty disappointed with the result,” said Sexton. “It is a tough one to take but we’ve got one more Test so we need to come back stronger.”
The tone was set in the early stages for an Irish display that would dwarf the showing at Eden Park in the first Test. With nine minutes on the clock, referee Nigel Owens blew for a penalty following an All Black infringement against a driving maul. Sexton had a quick discussion with his captain, Brian O’Driscoll, before opting to kick for an attacking line-out, rather than take the three points on offer. The decision was validated a minute later as scrum-half Conor Murray sniped over to score.
“We had a very good, driving maul beforehand,” he said. “Brian asked what I thought we should do so I said: ‘Put it in the corner’. “We decided to go for it and it paid off.”
Sexton revealed that there was an abundance of confidence and positivity in the Irish dressing room at the break, as his side led 10-9, but they allowed New Zealand to edge in front.
“We gave them a very soft try straight after half-time,” he said. “We went six points behind but I was proud of the way we bounced back.”
Sexton and his team-mates recognised that it was a safer option to retain possession and attempt line breaks rather than play for territory. The 26-year-old’s chance to write himself into Irish rugby folklore came when he addressed a penalty one yard inside the All Black half right after Israel Dagg had been sent to the sin-bin.
“I probably needed to strike it 100 per cent for it to go over in those cold conditions,” he said. “It wasn’t the worst strike I’ve ever made; it was on target but just a metre and a bit short.”
Ireland will be without Jamie Heaslip and Gordon D’Arcy next week. D’Arcy has a calf strain and has been replaced in the squad by Paddy Wallace, while Heaslip has damaged a finger.
Scorers: New Zealand – Try: A Smith. Con: Carter. Pens: Carter 4. Drop Goal: Carter. Ireland – Try: Murray. Con: Sexton. Pens: Sexton 4.
New Zealand: Dagg; Guildford, C Smith, S Williams, Savea; Carter, A Smith; Woodcock, Hore, O. Franks, Retallick, S. Whitelock, Thomson, McCaw, Read. Replacements: B. Smith for Savea (73), A. Williams for Retallick (64), Cane for Read (40).
Ireland: Kearney; McFadden, O’Driscoll, D’Arcy, Trimble; Sexton, Murray; Healy, Best, Ross, Tuohy, Ryan, McLaughlin, O’Brien, Heaslip. Replacements: O’Gara for D’Arcy (51), Reddan for Murray (64), O’Callaghan for Tuohy (58), O’Mahony for McLaughlin (61).
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: West