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Johnny Sexton says he is ‘living a dream’ as Ireland clinch Grand Slam glory

Ireland clinch glory in front of a jubilant Aviva Stadium crowd.

DUBLIN, IRELAND - MARCH 18: Johnny Sexton of Ireland lifts the Six Nations Trophy as James Ryan of Ireland lifts the Triple Crown Trophy after winning the Six Nations with a Grand Slam during the Six Nations Rugby match between Ireland and England at Aviva Stadium on March 18, 2023 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)© Getty Images

Kevin PalmerSunday World

Ireland reignited the St Patrick’s weekend celebrations by clinching Grand Slam success in Dublin for the first time with a battling 29-16 bonus-point victory over 14-man England.

The world’s top-ranked side were odds-on favourites to sweep aside their rivals but were made to work hard for the country’s fourth championship clean sweep overall.

Dan Sheehan’s two tries and further scores from Robbie Henshaw and Rob Herring ultimately elevated Andy Farrell’s class of 2023 alongside the heroes of 1948, 2009 and 2018 on a historic occasion at a rowdy Aviva Stadium.

England played half of the match a man light after Freddie Steward was sent off on the stroke of half-time following an arm to the head of Hugo Keenan and did their best to spoil the party.

Yet it was a night of glory for Ireland and Johnny Sexton, who ended his final Six Nations game as the ultimate winner.

"You could not make this up, it is like living in a dream,” said Sexton. “We did not play our best but what a team. What a group of coaches.

"We did nothing that they told us, in fact the exact opposite but we made things hard for ourselves.

"England are a top class team. To get a win on St Patrick's weekend is unbelievable. We did not quite nail it, but we did enough.

"It is the best tournament to play in, the best country to play for. We are so proud to be Irish. It does not feel like the end, there is plenty left in this team, we need to improve on today and we will be back."

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell paid tribute to Sexton as he toasted his latest moment of glory as Ireland head coach.

"Hopefully there's bigger fish to fry for Johnny with the World Cup. It's unbelievable for him to have this moment and lift the trophy," he said.

"He wanted to lift it with someone else and I said he mustn't. He deserves it. What a way for him to go out of the Six Nations.

"It means so much to everyone here - to be able to do a St Patrick's weekend and win a Grand Slam is always going to be special.

"It was squeaky bum time at 10-9. The pressure that France put on in the last couple of games, we knew it was win at all costs.

"It was a proper old-fashioned Test match. We were disappointed with some aspects of our game but we've a bonus-point win. That's where we're at at the moment."

Ireland vice-captain James Ryan said on ITV Sport: “It's one of the best nights of our careers today. We spoke about the opportunity to win a Grand Slam at home in front of the Irish people.

"It's been a special week and it was all about delivering today. We didn't get it quite right in the first half but we stuck at it and eventually found a way.

"There was a bit of pressure but every game you play for Ireland there's pressure. That's why it's so pleasing.

"We want to test ourselves and be able to find a way. It's really special."

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