Johnny Sexton fiercely defends Billy Burns after last kick nightmare 10 months ago

Johnny Sexton fiercely defends Billy Burns after last kick nightmare

"He's not the reason we lost the game"

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell and Johnny Sexton, his captain, both stood up for Billy Burns after a gut-wrenching defeat in Cardiff.

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Farrell was "gutted" that his side could not hold on to their half-time lead as they fell to Wales in their Six Nations opener.

Ireland were reduced to 14 men after only 13 minutes when Peter O'Mahony was red-carded for a reckless clear-out on Wales prop Tomas Francis. They rallied from 3-0 down, too, and led 13-6 at half-time but could not sustain the fight-back.

Tries from George North and Louis Rees-Zammit edged Wales ahead but a Billy Burns penalty made it a one-score game with eight minutes to go. Wales then looked set to run the clock down but they kicked the ball away and were then penalised twice, giving Ireland a chance to have an attacking lineout from inside the 22.

Billy Burns was given the task of getting as much purchase from his kick to touch as possible, but he pushed it too much and the ball went out on the full. It was the final act of a pulsating match and Burns was crestfallen with his error.

The Ulster out-half was consoled by his teammates and Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones came over to offer his commiserations too. As opinions flew about on social media, Ulster teammate John Cooney rode to Burns' defence.

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Following the game, Sexton was asked about that end-game kick from Burns. He commented:

"As a 10, you have to go for it and get us five metres out. Sometimes you miss and sometimes you're the hero, but it’s a big difference between 10 and five metres.

"I'm proud of the boys for the effort we put in, but ultimately it came down to a few key mistakes. I think a couple of decisions at the end went against us, but Wales are a very good side and we only have ourselves to blame.

"We spoke about discipline in the week but it let us down and we made some key errors."

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In his post-match briefing, Farrell said the loss was not on Burns and that he had shaken his hand after the match ended. He said he would have a proper catch up with him when he finished his media duties.

Sexton, when he arrived for the briefing, said he shouted, "Billy you've got to go for it" when the penalty was awarded to Ireland.

"You've got to put the kick five metres out," Sexton added. "That's what gets you the tries... I've been there, as a 10. At times you'e the hero and at times you're the villain."

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