Sexton faces a race against time


Rugby:Jonathan Sexton has emerged as the most serious injury concern for Leinster coach Michael Cheika in the wake of their bruising win over Clermont Auvergne on Friday night. The Leinster and Ireland outhalf suffered a broken jaw during the nail-biting 29-28 win at the RDS and faces a race against time to be fit for the semi-finals in three weeks time.

Sexton had surgery on the injury yesterday with a plate being inserted to stabilise his jaw.

Cheika, who’s side will meet the winners of this afternoon’s quarter-final between Toulouse and Stade Francais in the last four, is also waiting to learn the full extent of injuries to Rob Kearney (ankle) and Brian O’Driscoll (knee).

Northampton coach Jim Mallinder, meanwhile, admitted his were powerless to prevent Ronan O’Gara from ending English interest in the Heineken Cup yesterday evening.

O’Gara masterminded Munster’s 33-19 victory at Thomond Park that puts the two-time champions on a semi-final collision course with Biarritz.

O’Gara landed 13 points but it was his kicking out of hand that did the damage, using the wind to produce a pinpoint barrage of long-range touchfinders in the decisive final quarter.

“We talked at half time about what O’Gara would do, though unfortunately talking isn’t quite good enough and he’s a master,” said Mallinder. “It was quite windy out there and he controlled that second half particularly well. O’Gara’s a good player and Munster are a good team.

“Defensively we were a little bit off our game and not quite clinical enough in attack. We couldn’t really get out of our half in the second half. We thought we could break Munster down by playing some rugby and if we looked after the ball we could score some tries, but we needed quality ball but didn’t get enough of that.

“We knew we had a chance of winning this game, a good chance. We just didn’t perform the way we know we can, but the best team won on the day.”

Munster coach Tony McGahan admitted O’Gara played a crucial role in their passage into the semi-finals.

“Ronan was fantastic — he was at his best today with his game management,” he said. “He controlled everything and that was a big part of our game. We needed him.”

Paul O’Connell withdrew from the side shortly before kick off because of a groin problem and the Munster captain will continue to be monitored over the coming week.

“Relief is my initial reaction, especially after last week’s result. The players were superb. We were very composed,” said McGahan. “The forwards were tremendous as they have been under scrutiny all season.

“Following the loss of Paul we needed to step up to the mark and we did that. Mick O’Driscoll was excellent coming in for Paul.”