Johnny Sexton: Grand Slam better than the best day of my life | Steve Borthwick: Freddie Steward wasn’t making a tackle | Rugby Union News
Ireland’s Johnny Sexton calls his side’s Grand Slam win ‘special, incredible, the stuff of dreams’ and ‘better than the best day of my life’; England’s Steve Borthwick queries red card given to Freddie Steward, saying: “What was clear there, was Freddie was not trying to make a tackle”
Last Updated: 18/03/23 10:51pm
Johnny Sexton said leading Ireland to a first Six Nations Grand Slam in Dublin was ‘better than the best day of my life’, while England head coach Steve Borthwick queried Freddie Steward’s red card saying: ‘he wasn’t trying to make a tackle.’
Previous Ireland Grand Slam wins in 1948 (Belfast), 2009 (Cardiff) and 2018 (Twickenham) had each been won away from home, but tries from hooker Dan Sheehan (two), centre Robbie Henshaw and replacement Rob Herring confirmed a title-winning success.
Sexton also added nine points with the boot in his final Six Nations Test, becoming the all-time leading points scorer in the championship in the process.
“It was an unbelievable atmosphere. Very special,” Sexton said at the post-match press conference, adorned with his winners medal.
“We had probably 98 per cent of the crowd, it was incredible. And fair play to England the way they turned up. It speaks a lot about their captain and coach.
“They made it tough and we made it tough for ourselves. We’ll take a lot of learnings out of it I’m sure, but for the moment it’s just to enjoy it for 48 hours.
“They certainly don’t come around very often [days like this]. A fourth time ever just shows how hard it is. And it’s so hard because playing for your country means so much.
“We’ve won a Grand Slam, it’s a pinch yourself moment. You couldn’t make it up really. It’s the stuff of dreams.
“Growing up, all you wanted to do was play for Ireland, and for me, I don’t know why, but I always wanted to captain Ireland.
“[Head coach Andy Farrell] asked me to it, and it was probably the best day of my life, and to have this today, it’s even better.
“A great management team, a great bunch of players and I’ve said in the dressing room there, it’s not the end, there’s plenty left in this team.”
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell added: “It’s a weird feeling at this moment in time, I’m just elated for the boys to get it over the line because it meant so much to them. Especially being here at home, only the fourth one in Irish history.
“It’s a special occasion, especially with the weekend that it’s been. We felt a duty that we couldn’t let people down, and i would say there’s a sense of relief to get the job done.
“But I’m immensely proud. Grand Slams aren’t done on a night like this, they’re not even done over a seven-week period but the whole time we’ve been together.”
A massively significant moment came shortly before the interval as foul play by Steward – taking out Hugo Keenan with a tucked arm, and connecting with the Ireland full-back’s head – resulted in a red card as South African referee Jaco Peyper confirmed he could find no mitigation.
For Borthwick, his full-back was not seeking to make a tackle in the incident, though.
“If we’re talking about tackle height, we can have a conversation about tackle height, that’s fine,” Borthwick said.
“But what was clear there, was Freddie (Steward) was not trying to make a tackle.
“There will be a disciplinary procedure, and it’s not right for anyone and my self right now to talk about the particular incident.
“But it’s not about tackle height.
“Congratulations to this Ireland team on winning a Grand Slam. You can see how they’ve built in this World Cup cycle, and performed really well throughout this Six Nations.”
Of the red card, England skipper Owen Farrell added: “I was surprised if I’m honest. But it’s not up to us, we don’t make the rules, we don’t put them in place.
“We don’t hear the process the referee goes through, we just had to accept it.
“I thought the game was a brilliant contest, a brilliant Test match, and the way we reacted after that red card was very good. We fought for each other.
“Unfortunately we didn’t get on the right side of the result, which is always disappointing in an England shirt.”