Sexton sets new record as Ireland storm past Tonga
MATCH REPORT: Johnny Sexton became Ireland’s all-time leading points scorer in a 59-16 win over Tonga in Nantes
The flyhalf and captain entered the match nine points behind Ronan O’Gara’s points mark of 1,083 and he overtook his predecessor with a 16-point haul in the first half of Saturday’s World Cup Pool B encounter.
After a penalty and a few conversions, Sexton set the new record with a memorable try before being replaced at half-time.
It was a commanding performance from Ireland, who outscored their opponents by eight tries to one in the match.
The bonus-point win also consolidated their position at the top of Pool B, which also includes the Springboks, who they face next weekend, and Scotland.
Ireland settled the nerves in the sixth minute with a Sexton penalty to give them the lead.
Andy Farrell’s side had a few chances in Tonga’s half after that, but they lacked some patience on attack.
The scores were level after 16 minutes with a great penalty from Tonga flyhalf William Havili.
Not long after that, Ireland thought they scored a try in the 18th minute when Tonga failed to gather a high ball in their own 22. The loose ball was picked up and it was spread wide to Andrew Porter who dived over the tryline. However, the try was called off for a knock-on from Mack Hansen earlier in the play.
The Irish eventually got their first try in the 21st minute after Caelan Doris was put into space with a great inside pass from Sexton before the No.8 fed the ball to Tadhg Beirne who had enough pace and power to stretch over for the score. Sexton made it a seven-point lead with the conversion.
However, Havili reduced the lead to just four points with another excellent penalty kick a few minutes later.
With a far superior forward pack, Ireland stretched their lead again in the 27th minute after Doris found his way to the tryline after a powerful driving maul inside Tonga’s 22.
Sexton added the extra two points with the conversion.
Farrell’s side pulled further away a few minutes later when wing Hansen was put into space out wide and then the Australian-born flyer beat five defenders with some neat footwork on his way to the tryline. It became an 18-point lead with Sexton’s conversion.
History was then made in the 38th minute when Sexton was put in space after a well-worked move to sprint away for the try that gave him Ireland’s all-time points record. He also converted that score.
Ireland were then reduced 14 men after Peter O’Mahony was yellow carded for his team’s repeated infringements and it was Tonga who would have the final say of a long first half with Vaea Fifita powering over the tryline from a scrum inside Ireland’s 22.
After Havili’s conversion, it was 31-13 to Ireland at the break.
Tonga’s managed to reduce Ireland’s lead to 15 points soon after the break with another Havili penalty.
Ireland’s replacement hooker Rob Herring thought he got his team’s fifth try, but the TMO ruled that he propelled himself over the tryline after a quick-tap penalty.
That fifth try was eventually scored by James Lowe who came off his wing to pounce on a ball off a scrum before powering his way over Tonga’s tryline. Ross Byrne made it a 22-point lead with the conversion.
Ireland’s lead grew in the 63rd minute with Bundee Aki bursting through the midfield and sprinting away for a try. Byrne was successful with the conversion again.
After sustained pressure, Aki was in again in the 63rd minute and Herring put the seal on the victory in the final minute of the game with a try of his own.
Man of the match: Caelan Doris was a powerhouse in the first half. The No.8 played a significant role in the opening try before he scored one himself a few minutes later. Lock Tadhg Beirne got his team over the advantage line on a few occasions and scored his team’s opening try. However, the award goes to centre Bundee Aki, who dominated the midfield. He was strong with ball in hand and solid on defence. He also scored two of his team’s eight tries
Tries: Beirne, Doris, Hansen, Sexton, Lowe, Aki 2, Herring
Cons: Sexton 4, Byrne 4
Pens: Havili 2
Yellow card: Peter O’Mahony (Ireland, +40′ – cynical play, slowing the ball down)
Ireland: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Mack Hansen, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 James Lowe, 10 Johnny Sexton (captain), 9 Conor Murray, 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 James Ryan, 4 Tadhg Beirne, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Ronan Kelleher, 1 Andrew Porter.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 David Kilcoyne, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Ryan Baird, 21 Craig Casey, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Robbie Henshaw.
Tonga: 15 Salesi Piutau, 14 Afusipa Taumoepeau, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Pita Ahki, 11 Solomone Kata, 10 William Havili, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Vaea Fifita, 7 Sione Talitui, 6 Tanginoa Halaifonua, 5 Halaleva Fifita, 4 Sam Lousi, 3 Ben Tameifuna (captain), 2 Paula Ngauamo, 1 Siegfried Fisi’ihoi.
Replacements: 16 Sam Moli, 17 Tau Koloamatangi, 18 Sosefo Apikotoa, 19 Semisi Paea, 20 Solomone Funaki, 21 Sione Vailanu, 22 Sonatane Takulua, 23 Fine Inisi.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referees: Matthew Carley (England), Craig Evans (Wales)
TMO: Tom Foley (England)