Johnny Sexton joked his young son will chase down his record after he became Ireland’s all-time leading points scorer in a crushing Rugby World Cup win over Tonga.
Captain Sexton stylishly surpassed former fly-half rival Ronan O’Gara with the fourth of his side’s eight tries in a thumping 59-16 Pool B success in Nantes.
The 38-year-old also kicked a penalty and four conversions en route to moving on to a career total of 1,090 Test points in the green jersey – seven clear of O’Gara’s tally of 1,083 and in 13 fewer appearances.
He gleefully celebrated his landmark score under the posts before suggesting nine-year-old Luca will one day look to eclipse the achievement.
“It’s something when you retire and finish, you can look back and be proud,” said Sexton.
“I think my little boy will be over the moon, he was talking about it during the week and it probably means more to him. He’ll chase it down now! And so will the other 10s.
“It’s there to be broken now and I’m sure some young guys will be eyeing it up.
“Look, I’m very proud to do it, but tonight was more about getting the win and moving on to what’s such a massive game now this week.”
Ireland edged a step closer to the quarter-finals with a second successive bonus-point win on the back of last weekend’s 82-8 demolition of Romania.
Tries from Tadhg Beirne, Caelan Doris and Mack Hansen paved the way to victory, with Bundee Aki’s double and second-half scores from James Lowe and Rob Herring capping Sexton’s landmark moment.
Sexton was withdrawn at half-time with next weekend’s pivotal Paris showdown against champions South Africa in mind.
The world’s top-ranked nation emerged relatively unscathed from a bruising encounter at Stade de la Beaujoire, albeit replacement prop Finlay Bealham was forced off for a head injury assessment.
Head coach Andy Farrell made a dressing room speech to congratulate Sexton and says his skipper is far more than a “points-scoring machine”.
“It’s so fitting that he broke the record with a try like that,” said Farrell
“But what I would say, and I’ve said to Johnny in front of the lads in there, he can talk for himself, but the record is fantastic.
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) September 16, 2023
“He’d say that’s his job but it takes some doing.
“To us, as a leader, as a player, he’s a lot more than a points-scoring machine for Ireland, how he prepares his team and gets them up for every single game is more important to him and certainly to us.”
Speaking of the withdrawn Bealham, Farrell said: “Finlay’s in great spirits so he’ll go through the protocols tomorrow.
“But looking at him and speaking to the medics, they’re pretty happy with where he’s at, obviously with all the protocols, probably.”
Vaea Fifita crossed just before half-time to give Tonga brief hope in the aftermath of Peter O’Mahony’s yellow card, while William Havili kicked 11 points.
Tonga head coach Toutai Kefu conceded his team were ultimately outclassed.
“I don’t think they’re a 60-point team better than us,” he said.
“We were our worst enemy, we made some poor execution mistakes and some poor decisions, which probably inflated the score more than we would have liked.
“But you lose by 10, you lose by 50, you still lose.
“They pressured us in the air, on the ground. They’re a really complete team, a high-quality team, it’s why they’re number one in the world, so tonight too good for us.”