Six Nations

Sexton rues 14-man Ireland missing out on 'famous victory'

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Johnny Sexton. (Irish Rugby - Twitter)
Johnny Sexton. (Irish Rugby - Twitter)

Ireland captain Johnny Sexton rued missing out on what would have been a "famous victory" as his side lost 21-16 away to Wales on Sunday after being down a man for more than an hour.

The 35-year-old was one of several players who had been in the last Ireland side to beat Wales in a Six Nations match in Cardiff in 2013.

That looked a long shot of being repeated when flanker Peter O'Mahony was shown a straight red card by referee Wayne Barnes in the 14th minute.

However, they led 13-6 at the break and could have had a lineout near the opposition line in added time if Sexton's replacement Billy Burns succeeded with a penalty to the corner.

"It could have been a very famous victory for us," said Sexton at his post-match press conference.

"To go down to 14 so early, and any time you play Wales in Cardiff it's an incredibly tough game, and to do it with 14 men would have been incredibly special but it wasn't to be. I am very proud of the way we fought back with 14 men."

Sexton said Barnes was too lenient on the home side in the dying minutes as they infringed on several occasions.

"Yeah. You said it," he replied as to whether he felt an opponent should have been sin-binned.

"It's clear for me. (Nick) Tompkins sticking his hand out (deliberate knock on), the hand in the ruck, I don't know what else to say.

"I'm not blaming that, I blame ourselves for the loss but when you show the bravery that we showed, they're tough to take but it's not a surprise really."- 'Fully back the group' -

Fly-half Sexton said he sympathised with Burns, the Leinster playmaker had also missed a kick to touch minutes before he left the pitch with a head knock.

"As a ten, you have moments when you're a hero and you have moments when you're a villain," he said.

"You put yourself in those moments, that's the responsibility that you have. If you kick the ball to the '22', that's worse for me than trying to stick it five metres out and it not coming off.

"He'll learn and he'll go again."

Sexton did not look best pleased as he was led off with 10 minutes remaining.

"I'm okay now. I obviously got a bang on the head but I feel okay now, I got a bump on the side of the temple but I should hopefully be okay when I go through all the return to play protocols.

"I haven't done one (Head Injury Assessment) yet. I'll do one later and I'll do one tomorrow obviously."

Sexton, though, was far from downhearted as far as the championship was concerned before hosting last year's runners up France next Sunday.

"The bonus point loss could be crucial towards the end," he said.

"We could be top of the table next week if we get a good result. But we know we are playing against arguably the form team in Europe, the best team in Europe and we are going to have to come together and fix the wrongs from today.

"I fully back this group to do it."

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