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Schmidt hails teamwork after opening win

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Jonathan Sexton (right) celebrates with Bundee Aki after scoring a drop goal. AFP

PARIS (Reuters) – Ireland coach Joe Schmidt praised his side’s teamwork after their last-gasp, 15-13 win over France in their Six Nations opener on Saturday.

Ten minutes after wing Teddy Thomas’s dazzling run and Anthony Belleau’s conversion had given France a late lead, Johnny Sexton scored the winning drop goal from 44 metres with the final kick of the game.

“It’s pretty hard to explain how you feel when you think that the game has gone away and you’ve let it slip and then suddenly you’ve grabbed it,” Schmidt told a news conference, praising the team effort that allowed the flyhalf to attempt his drop goal.

“It was an incredible effort to work their way up the pitch ending with a 40-metre drop goal. It’s fairly inspirational,” he said.

Before Sexton was in position, Ireland went through 41 phases after starting from their own 22 metres.

“There are so many players involved, we played a number of phases (41), it was difficult to clear out the ball a number of times,” said Schmidt.

“When he struck the drop goal I was just willing it had enough distance to go over.”

Ireland, however, had dominated the game and it was only on Thomas’s splendid try that they seemed to be in difficulty.

“We did a lot of things very well – we started very strongly, we launched at them and there was some good handling from the backline,” Schmidt said.

“It was a stop-start game with a lot of penalties,” he added to explain why Ireland had failed to score a try.

“If you try to break a French defence with slow balls you’re really up against it. They’re a tough layer. Maybe people underestimate how hard it is to come here and win.

“It’s always disappointing not to score tries but it’s hard to put pressure on any team if the ball is slow and France could only score because of Teddy Thomas’s brilliance.”

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