Johnny Sexton relishes ‘special moment’ after putting Japan to the sword

Captain Sexton stylishly celebrated the milestone occasion by claiming the fifth of nine Irish scores during Saturday’s 60-5 win

Ed Elliot
Saturday 06 November 2021 17:18
Comments
Johnny Sexton with a Samurai sword presented to him by the Japan team to mark his 100th cap (Brian Lawless/PA)
Johnny Sexton with a Samurai sword presented to him by the Japan team to mark his 100th cap (Brian Lawless/PA)

Johnny Sexton said being mobbed by team-mates after marking his 100th Ireland cap with a try ranked among the “best moments” of his illustrious career.

Captain Sexton stylishly celebrated the milestone occasion by claiming the fifth of nine Irish scores during Saturday’s 60-5 demolition of Japan in Dublin

The influential 36-year-old, who also kicked 11 points, received a standing ovation from spectators as fellow players piled on, before being given another rapturous reception when he was later withdrawn.

“It was a very special moment for me – it’s up there with the best moments of my career,” Sexton said of his 48th-minute touch down.

“There was an incredible ovation and then I saw my family, I knew where they were sitting before the game, and they were just smiling.

“I don’t think Andrew Conway came in because he thought I should have passed the ball to him!

“A 14-man pile on and it was a very special moment, and the crowd at that moment I will remember forever.

“It’s just been a surreal day and a surreal week.”

Andy Farrell’s men were in dominant mood from the outset and warmed up for next weekend’s showdown against New Zealand by producing some scintillating, free-flowing rugby.

Winger Conway claimed a hat-trick, while James Lowe, Jamison Gibson-Park, Bundee Aki, Garry Ringrose and replacement Cian Healy were also on the scoresheet.

Veteran fly-half Sexton became only the seventh Irishman to reach a century of appearances, following Brian O’Driscoll, Ronan O’Gara, Rory Best, Paul O’Connell, John Hayes and Healy.

He received messages of support from each of those players ahead of the game and was also presented with a Samurai sword by Japan captain Pieter Labuschagne at full-time.

Asked what he would do with the gift, he replied: “Keep it away from Luca (his son) – he’ll bash his sisters with it!

“I’ll put it pride of place. It’s a special day and that’s a special memento to get from an opposition team, that’s very special for me.”

Johnny Sexton with a Samurai sword presented to him by the Japan team to mark his 100th cap (Brian Lawless/PA)

The Aviva Stadium was fully open to fans for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic took hold early last year.

While the first of three autumn international on successive weekends was far from sold out, any negativity regarding the empty seats and Ireland’s decision to ditch their traditional green jerseys in favour of a purple alternative was swiftly eradicated by a spellbinding display.

“I thought that we saw glimpses of it last season but we didn’t do it consistently enough,” Sexton said of the performance.

“Today we probably took a step forward. We did it more consistently.

“Still parts of it that we need to do better, especially for next week against the best team in the world, but it was pretty good and we have been working on it for a long time.

“We got a result to go along with the performance today.”

Japan’s 57th-minute consolation came from winger Siosaia Fifita.

Brave Blossoms head coach Jamie Joseph said: “The Irish team played really well, they were playing – I felt – for one of their brothers in terms of Johnny Sexton.

“It was the first match in the stadium (with a sizeable crowd) for a long time, so there was a lot to play for and they are playing the All Blacks next week and we were on the receiving end of that.

“We’ve just got to get ourselves back up again now and get on with it.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in