Men Behind the Tour: No.4 – Jonny Sexton

In trying to determine the turning point of the British & Irish Lions tour, the moment where the momentum swung irreversibly in the tourists' favour, there are countless possibilities - but Jonny Sexton's try in the third Test has to be right up there. [more]

Men Behind the Tour: No.4 – Jonny Sexton

In trying to determine the turning point of the British & Irish Lions tour, the moment where the momentum swung irreversibly in the tourists’ favour, there are countless possibilities – but Jonny Sexton’s try in the third Test has to be right up there.

He finished a fine move off himself in Sydney, striking the killer blow in the 57th minute, extending the Lions’ lead to 27-16, and soon to be 29-16 after Leigh Halfpenny’s expert conversion.

And it’s often forgotten that he played a major role in starting that move.

Toby Faletau must also take a large slice of the credit, for his turnover, with the Lions scrambling near their own line was crucial in stemming the tide coming from the resurgent Australians, who had trimmed the gap to three.

After Faletau's turnover, the ball soon found Sexton and thousands of Lions supporters were willing him to boot the ball into touch, to clear their lines and give their defenders some much-needed breathing space – but the Irishman had other ideas.

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He produced an inch-perfect, delicate chip to the left wing where the on-rushing George North fielded the ball and fed Jonathan Davies inside and while the ball went out for a Lions lineout, Sexton had single-handedly restored calm and confidence in the tourists and soon after he was dotting down.

And it was an effect that Sexton regularly had on the team. You got the sense that he had to curb his attacking instincts at times during the tour but he also had the wherewithal to keep his head when the Lions needed him to on numerous occasions.

He doesn’t stand out in terms of statistics, but Sexton’s influence on the side cannot be overstated – relieved of the kicking duties he maintained a tempo, especially in the third Test, that ultimately Australia could not live with.

“This is huge for me,” said Sexton, after the third Test. “Everything you win is very special, but this is just unique.

“You are playing with guys you barely know, and you have to forge that bond. You saw by the celebrations that we did that. We did the Lions tradition proud.

“The big motivation as a player is you want to be remembered when you hang up your boots, and you try to win as much as possible and do the right things as much as possible. Winning a Lions series is definitely part of that.

“It's very easy when the momentum goes that you think it's not your day.

“I am really proud of the way we stuck in there. No-one changed the plan and no-one panicked (at 19-16), and we swung it back.

“We were up for it last week, but we just played a bit better this time. We got more set-piece ball and we were more accurate. That is the bottom line.

“This time, though, we grabbed it by the scruff of the neck and went for it. We knew that if we scored tries, then we would win.”

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