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Sexton: We can’t peak now, we need to keep building

Sexton: We can’t peak now, we need to keep building

Ireland produced arguably their most complete performance yet under Andy Farrell to beat New Zealand but skipper Johnny Sexton insists the team has a lot more room to improve.

In front of a packed crowd at the Aviva Stadium, Ireland did not let up at all against the All Blacks, running in three tries on their way to a 29-20 success – a third in five years against New Zealand.

That builds on a fine performance against Japan in their opening Autumn Nations Series clash, not to mention the big win over England to finish the Guinness Six Nations.

But there is no danger of Sexton or the team resting on their laurels after this success.

He said: “(The game plan) is not all that new, it’s just that it’s starting to click a little bit. We’ve got to keep our feet on the ground, we’re at the start of our journey and we need to keep improving.

“We can’t peak now and then come up short, we need to keep building. I think there is plenty more in this team.

“It’s a special team with some special players. I’m so happy for James Lowe, some of the criticism he got, Joey Carbery coming off the bench and kicking three penalties. He’s been out so long with injury, it’s a credit to him and I’m delighted for him. Pete (O’Mahony), off the bench, that big poach. I said last night that it comes down to big moments and we won some big moments today.”

It was a brilliant display from Ireland, who dominated most of the first half but went in 10-5 down as the All Blacks showed just how clinical they can be, while defending for their lives on their own line.

James Lowe had gone over for a try for Ireland in the first half, but the pressure really told in the second as Ronan Kelleher and Caelan Doris crossed, while Sexton and Carbery’s kicking put the game beyond New Zealand, even after Will Jordan’s try.

And it was the nature of the performance that most pleased Sexton.

He added: “I think we played for 80 minutes, we left a few tries out there. There are a few decisions we’ll have to have a look at but we dominated large parts of the first half and went in 10-5 down. They are incredible, they are so clinical and they are a top quality team. I’m so proud of the lads, they regrouped at half-time, they took the messages on-board and we went out in the second half and scored some great tries.

“We had a couple of tries chalked off and a couple of penalties on their line which could have gone the other way and we might have gone in playing against 13 or with the lead. I’m just so proud of the lads and the way they dug in and ground out the win.”

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