Rugby World Cup 2015: Sexton on song as Ireland open with win
Jonathon Sexton fires Ireland to opening 50-7 win over Canada
Jonathan Sexton was in scintillating form as Ireland kicked off their World Cup campaign with a brilliant 50-7 win over Canada at the Millennium Stadium.
The Six Nations champions showed all their class on the way to victory with 14 first-half points for Sexton building a solid foundation for the bonus point.
The game was all-but over in the first period as Sexton, Sean O’Brien, Iain Henderson and Dave Kearney all ran in scores.
DTH van der Merwer did give Canada something to cheer with a consolation score in the second half but the damage was already done and Ireland strolled to victory.
Canada have qualified for every World Cup and they showed they weren’t going to be overawed by the experience with Matt Evans’ offload the fulcrum of an enterprising early move for the Canucks.
Ireland got going with a nice break from Conor Murray on the left but it was the Canadians who had the first chance to put some points on the board with Gordon McRorie’s long penalty falling just short.
Where McRorie came up short there was no mistake from Sexton who first found touch with a beautiful kick to move Ireland inside the Canadian 22 before the Leinster-bound fly-half turned over an easy penalty for the lead.
Pressure was the name of the game for the Irish and, with captain Jamie Cudmore in the sin-bin, a driving maul got O’Brien over the whitewash and Sexton added the extras.
The danger was coming from Ireland’s left and they once again burst to life on the wing and, after Paul O’Connell was held up at the line, Henderson crashed over – Sexton again on target with the kick.
It was all going Ireland’s way and Sexton was in the thick of the action, again finding touch with a wonderful kick before bursting down the left to score, though this time he screwed the conversion wide.
There was some brief respite for Canada but they were once again exploited on 35 minutes, this time down the right as Kearney took advantage of a two-man overlap to waltz over and Sexton got back on target from the tee.
A forward pass at the end of the first half meant Canada were denied a late score but they had an opportunity early in the second as O’Connell saw yellow.
But a lack of potency in attack meant that the openings that did present themselves couldn’t be exposed by the Maple Leafs.
With Ireland back to full strength the onslaught resumed but the Canadian defence held firm and Ireland struggled to add to their first-half haul.
However, they huffed and puffed and eventually had the all-important fifth try as Sean Cronin scrambled over under the posts on 66 minutes and Ian Madigan converted.
The Canadians did have something to cheer though as Jared Payne chipped straight into the hands of DTH van der Merwe from the restart and the 29-year-old sprinted over unopposed and Nathan Hirayama converted.
Ireland responded almost immediately through Rob Kearney and they had another with four minutes to go as Payne rounded off proceedings.