Andy Farrell hailed Johnny Sexton as the greatest player in Ireland’s history as the pair celebrated a stunning Grand Slam triumph after a thrilling 29-16 bonus points win over 14-man England.
Captain Sexton helped his country to their first clean win in the Championship – and fourth overall – in Dublin in his final appearance of the tournament to reignite St Patrick’s weekend party.
The 37-year-old, who will retire after the autumn World Cup in France, claimed nine points to surpass Ronan O’Gara as the Guinness Six Nations’ all-time top scorer with 566 points overall.
Head coach Farrell was “immensely proud” of his entire team’s performance, with particular praise for the influential skipper Sexton.
“He’s been saying all week, that’s what dreams are made of,” Farrell said. “It doesn’t happen that often.
“And it’s incredibly fitting that, in my opinion, the best player to ever play for Ireland is able to sign off for a Grand Slam on St Patrick’s Day in front of his own crowd.
“There are a lot of stars who have banded together over the course of the past eight weeks and are coming together tonight.”
Ireland’s previous Grand Slams – 1948, 2009 and 2018 – were won in Belfast, Cardiff and London respectively.
Two tries from Dan Sheehan and goals from Robbie Henshaw and Rob Herring sent the hosts over the line on an electrifying evening at the loud Aviva Stadium.
England led for most of the first half thanks to two Owen Farrell penalties but Freddie Steward was sent off just before the break with an arm in the head from Hugo Keenan and despite a persistent performance failed to spoil the party.
When asked to sum up his feelings, Andy Farrell replied: “I don’t know whether to laugh, cry or be a little bit sad. It’s a weird feeling at that moment.
“I’m just happy for the lads to have made it over the line because it has meant so much to them especially being at home here, only their fourth in Irish history. The first at home.
“It’s a special occasion, especially with the weekend being away from our hotel.
“We felt an obligation not to let people down and I would say we feel relieved to have the job done but also very proud.
“Grand Slams aren’t just won on nights like this, they’re won in the time we’ve been together. We built on that and I’m just glad we got the job done.”
Sexton was rewarded with a standing ovation when he hobbled off the field late after a bloody encounter.
“We won a Grand Slam, it’s one thing to pinch yourself,” said the fly-half, who won his second career Grand Slam but first as a skipper.
“You couldn’t really make it up. It’s the stuff of dreams.
“I always wanted to captain Ireland and this guy (Farrell) asked me to do it. It was probably one of the best days of my life and having today is even better.”
Owen Farrell took three penalties later in the evening to cause concern for his father’s side and converted Jamie George’s attempt at consolation.
But despite the steely reaction to last weekend’s record-breaking 53-10 win over France, England endured another poor season, losing three games in five for the third straight year.
England captain Farrell, who was “surprised” by the decision to sack Steward, said: “I thought the game was a brilliant test match.
“I thought our reaction after the red card was very good.
“I thought we fought for each other and unfortunately we didn’t get on the right side of the result, which is very disappointing in an England shirt.
“But I found the response to things that didn’t go our way – the map was one of them – to be great, especially after the last week.”