Andy Farrell hailed record-breaking Johnny Sexton as ‘one of the best Ireland have ever produced’ after he ended his Guinness Six Nations career with a superb Grand Slam triumph.
Ireland completed the clean sweep with a 29-16 victory over England, who played over half the match with 14-men after Freddie Steward was shown a red card for an elbow-to-head charge on Hugo Keenan.
Fly-half Sexton needed just a single point to become the Championship’s all-time leading points scorer but kicked nine to take his final tally to 566 points in his home city of Dublin.
Ireland’s latest success was Sexton’s fourth as a player and probably his last, with the Leinster man expected to call time on his illustrious career after the World Cup in France later this year.
“It’s unbelievably fitting for him to have this moment to lift the trophy,” Farrell said. “He wanted to go and lift it with somebody else and I said he mustn’t, he had to go and do it and relish the moment on his own because he deserves it.
“He’s one of the best, if not the best Ireland has ever produced. What a way for him to go out of the Six Nations, lifting the trophy on a Grand Slam.”
Ireland had never previously won a Grand Slam in Dublin but made this one comfortable in the end with tries from Robbie Henshaw, Rob Herring and a brace from hooker Dan Sheehan.
The victory completed a hugely successful week for Irish sport following their success at the Cheltenham Festival and Farrell says it is one that will live long in the memory.
“It’s the fourth time that we’ve done it and it’s the first time that we’ve done it at home,” said Farrell.
“It means so much to everyone here and all Irish people around the world – to be able to do it on St. Patrick’s weekend and win a Grand Slam, it’s always going to be special.”
Following France’s comfortable win over Wales earlier in the day, Ireland knew they needed a result to reclaim top spot and were made to work for it by a vastly improved England side.
Despite being a man down, the visitors trailed by just a point entering the final quarter of the game before adding three tries to add an extra sheen to the scoreline.
“It was squeaky bum time for a while there as far as 10-9 is concerned,” said Farrell.
“Credit to France and the pressure they’ve put on us over the last couple of games, we knew that it was win at all costs.
“The game was stop-start and it was a proper old fashioned Test match. Again, we’re disappointed with some aspects of the game but we picked up a bonus point win again, so I think that’s where we are at the moment.”
The celebrations are sure to continue long after Saturday’s triumph, one which is Farrell’s first since taking over as head coach ahead of the 2020 Championship.
Earlier in the week, Farrell took his grandchildren Tommy and Freddie along to Ireland’s captain’s run in a bid to win their allegiance at the expense of the dad and England captain Owen.
And the Ireland boss joked afterwards that the pair would be firmly in the green corner for the post-match festivities.
He said: “They’ve got both shirts on, so we’ll rip the England one off later when we are partying.”