Sexton has final word
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