DUBLIN • Johnny Sexton hailed Ireland's "brilliant" 24-14 victory over Wales, which ended Welsh hopes of a repeat Six Nations Grand Slam on Saturday.
The 34-year-old Irish talisman had scored all their points in the opening win over Scotland. But, at the Aviva Stadium, his teammates - Jordan Larmour, Tadhg Furlong, Josh van der Flier and Andrew Conway-ran in four tries for a bonus point win.
It kept their hopes alive of a second Slam in three years.
"Yeah, it would not be hard after last year," replied Sexton, smiling when asked whether he had enjoyed the victory after Wales' 25-7 victory over Ireland for the Grand Slam last season.
"It was brilliant, it had a bit of everything.
"It had some of the stuff we did not put out against the Scots. Our back three stuck to the tactics really well. When you get on the edge the temptation is always to run but they made their decisions really well. The most important thing for us is building momentum.
"The biggest challenge is ahead in a fortnight (against England) at Twickenham."
Sexton praised his long-time half-back partner Conor Murray for being pivotal in the victory. Murray - who has partnered Sexton a national record 58 times - answered his growing band of critics with an assured performance and his trademark box kicks kept the Welsh under pressure.
"He was outstanding," said Sexton. "His sniping off the maul gave us great field position to build pressure on them. His box kicking, which suddenly was being criticised - well, it won us the game in the second-half."
Sexton said it was not a case of throwing everything out under new coach Andy Farrell that his predecessor Joe Schmidt had introduced during his highly successful tenure that ended with a World Cup quarter-final exit.
"We are trying to develop something," said Sexton. "To suggest we have thrown away everything is wrong: there is a good balance."
For his part, Farrell said he was pleased with an improved performance from the edgy 19-12 win over Scotland. However, most of his praise was for Sexton and his captaincy which some had questioned.
"He is in control like he has been all his life," said Farrell.
STICKING TO THE PLAN
Yeah, it would not be hard after last year. It was brilliant, it had a bit of everything. It had some of the stuff we did not put out against the Scots. Our back three stuck to the tactics really well.
IRELAND'S CAPTAIN JOHNNY SEXTON, when asked whether he had enjoyed the victory after Wales' 25-7 win over his team for the Grand Slam last season.
"I think it has added to his game being captain... What he drags out of the team is remarkable, that trust and honesty."
Farrell is under no illusions about the toughness of the task facing them against England.
Eddie Jones' World Cup runners-up got a much-needed 13-6 victory over Scotland at a rain-swept Murrayfield on Saturday after the previous week's opening defeat in France.
"We saw an improved performance today," said Farrell.
"But we know... there is still plenty more in us."
His counterpart Wayne Pivac bemoaned a plethora of handling errors as Wales suffered their first Six Nations defeat in nine matches.
The new Dragons coach said there would need to be a marked improvement for their match with France in a fortnight.
Meanwhile, a Daily Mail report that world champions South Africa could join an expanded Six Nations in 2024 and abandon Super Rugby as well as the Rugby Championship have been denied by New Zealand Rugby (NZR).
NZR chief executive Mark Robinson yesterday pointed to South Africa's signing of a broadcast contract to stay in the southern hemisphere rugby's Sanzaar alliance until 2025.
"Our broadcast deal... is from 2021 to 2025. South Africa are in the same space," Robinson told New Zealand's Radio Sport on Sunday. "There will be opportunities for them to review certain things within that but overall they've got that commitment."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS