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Incredible images emerge as Johnny Sexton leaves the pitch for the final time

BY Jack Tunney  ·  Sunday Oct 15, 2023

There are very few words that can truly express exactly what sort of a match this was, but to quote an age-old cliché …it was rugby at its best. Ireland displayed teamwork and heart in its purest form, whilst the All Blacks played rugby at stratospheric levels achieved only by those at the very top of their craft.

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Irish fans flooded toward the Stade de France in their thousands, accompanied by good times, drink, and sheer excitement for the 80 minutes of rugby heaven. It was to be Ireland’s opportunity to finally escape the jeers and taunts surrounding their inability to make it past a quarter-final.

The stage was set for an almighty clash, and that’s exactly what the fans got. The stadium was littered with black shirts in amongst the sea of green, with each and every fan nervously jittering on the spot.

Matching the nervous energy from the stands, the players started erratically, as Aaron Smith flung his first two passes wildly past the intended recipient. His erratic start was matched by both Jordie Barrett and Richie Mo’unga, who found their own kicks going AWOL.

Their shaky start did not last long, however, as their first attack saw a 30 phase passage rewarded with an easily kickable penalty for Mo’unga. The All Blacks continued their impressive attack as they took an early and comprehensive lead through the boot, and shortly after – an impressive try in the corner.

Ireland found themselves chasing the game as the match progressed, with the men and green never letting the All Blacks get too far ahead. The incredible game eventually culminated in a 40 phase attack from Ireland which sadly failed to come to fruition as they banged on an All Black door sealed shut.

The players on either side sank to their knees as New Zealand won their final defensive penalty to secure the victory, signaling an end to the illustrious Johnny Sexton’s career.

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It was as Sexton was doing his well deserved lap of the pitch that his son was seen to mouth the words: “You’re still the best dad”.

It goes to show that even thought the rugby of rugby can be cruel at times, the humanity behind it can be something special.

The match finished Ireland 24 – 28 New Zealand.

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Watch the highlights here.

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