Johnny Sexton is aiming for a Grand Slam as Ireland captain against England next weekend
Edinburgh (AFP) - Ireland captain Johnny Sexton said the chance to clinch a Grand Slam on home soil against England next week is the “stuff of dreams” after his side defeated Scotland 22-7 at Murrayfield on Sunday.
Sexton moved level with his predecessor as Ireland fly-half, Ronan O’Gara, as the highest points scorer in Six Nations history on 557 with a penalty and two conversions.
But it was Mack Hansen who made the difference for the injury-hit visitors as he scored one and helped set up Ireland’s other two tries, scored by James Lowe and Jack Conan.
Victory over an England side that were smashed 53-10 by France on Saturday would secure just a fourth Grand Slam in Irish history.
“It would be stuff of dreams really. It’s what you grow up wanting to do,” said Sexton.
“We need to just get down to business and have a big performance because they will be hurting from yesterday, wanting to show what playing for England means for them.
“They are a good team, a better team than they showed yesterday.”
Sexton could be set for an even more special day by moving outright as the tournament’s top scorer to go with a Slam.
“Rog (O’Gara) will be trying to pay me off to retire now,” added Sexton.
“It’s a nice thing. Hopefully (I’ll) get back on the pitch next week.
“It’s all about winning. These other things come along but they are not in the forefront of my mind.”
Ireland boss Andy Farrell paid tribute to his side’s character as they got the job done in Edinburgh despite losing five players to injury.
Caelan Doris, Iain Henderson and Dan Sheehan were all forced off before half-time.
Ronan Kelleher’s departure early in the second half left Ireland without a recognised hooker, while Garry Ringrose was stretchered off late on with a head knock.
“It was immense,” said Farrell. “Obviously it wasn’t champagne rugby all round but in terms of character, fight and want for each other that’s the best game I’ve ever been involved in.”
Scotland got off to their best ever start to a Six Nations with victories over England and Wales.
But Gregor Townsend’s men have been handed a reality check with defeats to the two highest ranked sides in the world after also losing out to France two weeks ago.
Townsend was left frustrated as the hosts let the game slip away in the second half after an attritional first 40 minutes ended with Ireland leading just 8-7.
“I felt both teams’ energy dropped in the second half because it was such an open game, physical game,” said Townsend. “It was there to be grabbed and it was Ireland who grabbed it.”
The sides will meet again at the World Cup in October, with South Africa also in a tough group.
Townsend urged his players to turn good spells into an 80-minute performance after running all of Ireland, France and New Zealand close before ultimately losing out in recent months.
“Today, first half was some of the best rugby we’ve played because of the quality of the opposition,” he added. “But 40 or 50 minutes isn’t good enough.”