PARIS : Flyhalf Johnny Sexton said Ireland gave it their all as he missed the chance to end his career with a World Cup win after his side were beaten 28-24 by New Zealand in their quarter-final on Saturday in the 38-year-old’s final game.
“You’ve got to work hard for fairytale endings, we didn’t get it and that’s just life,” a tearful Sexton said in a TV interview.
“We didn’t leave a stone unturned and we ticked every box, we trained the house down, and I thought, after a slow enough start, we played pretty well tonight.”
Despite his four Six Nations titles, two Grand Slams and four European Cups, Sexton and Ireland have never been beyond the last eight of the World Cup.
They came into the tournament as the world’s top-ranked team, but they could not manage an elusive first knockout victory after a dominant defensive display by New Zealand.
Down by four points, a Herculean late effort saw the Irish cross the All Blacks’ line after a maul, but they couldn’t ground the ball and they never came close to scoring again.
“A few decisions, a bounce of the ball, one inch away from scoring a try, so fair play to the All Blacks, they’re a very good team and they’re well-coached, so fair play to them,” Sexton said.
Sexton expressed his gratitude to his team mates and the Irish fans that had travelled to France in huge numbers for each of the team’s five World Cup games.
“This last six weeks has been a dream, this group, these fans, and I’m just gutted we couldn’t do it for them,” he said.
Ireland’s record points-scorer lingered on the field after the final whistle and was comforted by his nine-year-old son Luca as the Irish players walked towards the guard of honour formed by their New Zealand counterparts.
“You’re still the best dad,” Luca told him.