Johnny Sexton: Ireland fly-half says win over England vindicates squad's belief

Johnny Sexton had a 100% record from his eight kicks at goal
Johnny Sexton's superb display at half-back alongside Conor Murray included kicking 22 points for the Irish

Johnny Sexton said Ireland's dominant 32-18 victory over England vindicated the squad's belief that they have been making progress under Andy Farrell.

Defeats by Wales and France led to some criticism of Farrell's reign but victories in Rome and Murrayfield were followed by Saturday's emphatic win.

"No one believed me did they? It was brilliant," Sexton told ITV Sport.

"There's still lots that we can improve on and get better but that was the performance we wanted."

The 35-year-old, who along with long-time half-back partner Conor Murray dominated the battle with opposite numbers George Ford and Ben Youngs, added: "We felt like we weren't far away all through the championship.

"That's the standard we've set now and hopefully we can keep backing it up and become more consistent."

A sensational Keith Earls score and further touchdown from Jack Conan put Ireland 20-6 ahead at half-time and the final scoreline flattered the visitors as they notched late tries from Youngs and Jonny May after Irish centre Bundee Aki's red card for a high hit on Billy Vunipola.

"We still felt we should have stopped the last try," added Sexton, who kicked 22 points as he had a 100% return from the tee with six penalties and two conversions.

"We showed great guts throughout the tournament. Sometimes when you don't take your chances, your performances don't look as good as they should."

Farrell's side out-thought and out-fought an England side captained by his son Owen to end in emphatic fashion a run of four straight defeats to the same opponents.

"To get that result against a very good side like England reiterates we are on the right track," said the Ireland coach.

"To win your last game in a tournament is always pleasing as it is a long time between drinks until the next one.

"To finish off with a 'W' I am delighted for the lads who have come in for a bit of stick."

Farrell said the Earls try - the veteran wing coming in off his flank to take a tap down from Conan - had been a rehearsed move.

"The Keith Earls try was something we worked on all week trying to find way to win lineout cleanly and manipulate the defence on the back of it.

"Conan's skill was outstanding to deliver the ball, it was very pleasing."

Centre Robbie Henshaw, who was named man of the match, said the Irish had been determined to give CJ Stander a winning sending-off following his announcement that he will retire after the end of this season.

"It was important that we finish on as a high a note as possible," Henshaw told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"For CJ [Stander], mainly, he has offered so much to this team - for the fans who can't be here, we wanted to give them something to cheer about.

"We were disappointed with the first two games, it's about showing the heights we can hit when we are on and in the future.

"It was a massively emotional performance, and you are playing England, so you have to be up for it."

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