Sex­ton has fi­nal word

Sunday Express - - SPORT - By Henry Lew­ing

JOHNNY SEX­TON shrugged off France’s lat­est bully-boy tac­tics to pi­lot Ire­land’s stub­born Six Na­tions vic­tory in Dublin.

Sex­ton copped a heavy, late hit from for­mer Rac­ing 92 team-mate Eddy Ben Arous but shook off any dam­age to end the day with an 11-point haul in Ire­land’s fine win.

Conor Mur­ray sneaked home for the game’s sole try to keep Ire­land’s ti­tle hopes alive, with Paddy Jack­son also post­ing a late penalty.

Camille Lopez booted three penal­ties for France.

Sex­ton has been knocked un­con­scious, suf­fered a nasty black eye and been put on his back­side from count­less late hits against France in the last four years.

Ben Arous had even vowed to “go af­ter” Sex­ton “200 per cent” at the World Cup in 2015, only for Ire­land to pre­vail 24-9.

Bri­tish and Ir­ish Li­ons star Sex­ton suf­fered two ques­tion­able late tack­les in this lat­est skir­mish with Les Bleus, but emerged un­scathed and vic­to­ri­ous in his first match in a month af­ter calf trou­ble.

The 31-year-old was re­placed by Jack­son in the fi­nal quar­ter, but for once against the French his with­drawal was not en­forced.

Sex­ton’s im­me­di­ate re­turn to form af­ter a nig­gling calf in­jury will leave Li­ons coach War­ren Gat­land hop­ing he can reignite his top form be­fore the sum­mer’s tour to New Zealand.

Ire­land rode their luck to sneak a 7-6 lead into the break, with only a mar­ginal knock-on rul­ing cost­ing France’s Remi Lam­erat a fine score.

The vis­i­tors had to set­tle for two Lopez penal­ties, while the hosts forced the break­through when Hen­shaw’s brave, tight line from a five-me­tre scrum set the plat­form, and Mur­ray sniped home in style.

In driv­ing rain, Sex­ton slot­ted his first of two penal­ties to give Ire­land a four-point lead be­fore he dropped a goal.

Ire­land de­mol­ished France’s scrum be­fore Sex­ton slot­ted his sec­ond penalty to make it 16-6. Lopez got his third only for Jack­son to re­store the 10-point cush­ion.

CONOR HON­OUR: Mur­ray scores

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