Sexton kicks Racing Metro to victory in Top 14 win over Perpignan
Irish outhalf lands 14 points and sets up opening try of game
Racing-Metro’s outhalf Jonathan Sexton in action at the Yves du Manoir stadium in Colombes against Perpignan. Photograph: Getty
Jonathan Sexton rounded off his first month in the French Top 14 by playing a key part in Racing Metro’s 19-16 win over Perpignan in Paris yesterday.
Sexton kicked 14 points in all and showed great awareness and balance to set up Benjamin Fall for the opening try of the game after 51 minutes.
But four minutes later the visitors were awarded a penalty try when Adrien Plante was adjudged to have illegally pulled back Wandile Mjekevu at the end of a chase to the line.
The score was 16-13 at that stage but Perpignan’s Tommaso Benvenuti soon followed Plante into the sinbin.
Sexton nailed the resulting penalty to ease Racing nerves and they eventually held out to win 19-16 – their third success from five matches this season.
League authorities had asked that no player should have to start all three matches being played over a hectic nine-day period.
Having been left out of the midweek defeat against Toulouse, however, Sexton was recalled to the starting line-up for the last of those yesterday.
It was the first time this season that both Paris clubs were in action at home on the same day and Le Parisien named Sexton as one of three reasons why supporters should go to Racing’s match rather than to the Stade Français game against Clermont Auvergne.
He was “less charismatic” than former fan favourite Sébastien Chabal, noted the paper, before adding that this was perhaps the chance for him to really shine.
A battle with Perpignan outhalf James Hook would have been interesting, but the Welshman was left on the bench in a weakened line-up.
After Hook’s replacement Tommy Allan kicked Perpignan into an early lead, three penalties by Sexton gave Racing a 9-6 lead at the break.
All of them were in front of the posts, reflecting an exasperating first half for the home side, who dominated territory but couldn’t breach the visiting defence.
That was hardly Sexton’s fault, as he produced a busy performance that was appreciated by the crowd. They lauded him with cries of “Olé!” midway through the half when he threw himself into contact in an effort to break the deadlock.
And he received an even bigger cheer after 28 minutes when, isolated in his own 22, he launched a counterattack that brought him past three players before being stopped on the half-way line.
Sexton’s language problems are minimal, judging by the way he barked orders throughout, although his frustration showed at times, notably when he remonstrated with team-mates near the end of the opening period.
Battled raged between the respective forwards, largely in the Perpignan half, but Racing couldn’t make their pressure count like it should have.
After Benjamin Fall and Adrien Plante failed to finish off another chance, Sexton restored Racing’s lead with the last kick of the half.
The home side finally made their superiority pay after 51 minutes when Fall burst down the right before finding Sexton on the wing.
After the video referee judged that Sexton hadn’t been forced into touch, the 28-year-old converted to give Racing a 16-6 lead.
Shortly afterwards Perpignan replied with a penalty try – which.
After Sexton made it 19-16 from with a penalty, Perpignan reduced the score with 11 minutes remaining.
Hook, introduced as a substitute, had a chance to snatch a draw, but his effort from inside Racing’s half fell short.