Ireland coach Joe Schmidt hailed Jonny Sexton as a perfectionist after his astute game management helped the Irish to a 50-7 Rugby World Cup defeat of Canada on Saturday.
Sexton notched up 14 points from a try, three conversions and a penalty to take his tally from internationals past 500 points.
But it was more his kicking from hand and willingness to unleash his free-running backs that had not just Schmidt but also Canada coach Kieran Crowley waxing lyrical.
The playmaker was at the heart of everything in the 55 minutes he played, instrumental in four tries for a 29-0 half-time lead that proved the bedrock of a convincing Pool D victory as the Canadians ran out of steam and conceded three more tries in the second period.
“I felt he played really well today,” Schmidt said. “He played 55 minutes to get man of the match, so he’s reasonably happy with that.
“He passed 500 points in international rugby, which is a real milestone for him and something he hugely deserved for all the effort he puts to making sure he’s well-prepared.”
Crowley, like Schmidt a New Zealander and the sole coach among the 20 present to have won a World Cup, added: “He’s not one of the most well-paid rugby players in the world for nothing, is he?
“His salary is the same as ours put together. Jonny’s got a good kicking game and gets the backs going so well, the team running so well.
“He has good game management and always creates a threat because he has a kicking threat and a running threat.
“He’s a pretty competent 10 which any team in the world would be happy to have in their side. And his goal kicking is obviously an added bonus. He controlled the game pretty well from a management perspective today.”
It had not started so slickly for the Leinster playmaker, who has moved back to Ireland after two disappointing seasons with Racing Metro in the French Top 14.
With an early overlap clearly on, Sexton fired a mispass straight into touch, an error on which Schmidt said the perfectionist would dwell.
“He will reflect on the game and the first wide pass he made looped into touch,” Schmidt said. “It was the perfect opportunity. It was the right decision, but he didn’t quite execute it accurately enough.
“He will probably chastise himself for that, in amongst about 30 other really positive moments. That’s the way he is driven and that’s how he drives the team.”
Ireland’s next match is against Romania at Twickenham on September 27. Schmidt said a game plan would be drawn up to tackle the eastern Europeans before playing Italy at the Olympic Stadium on October 4 and arguably the pool decider against France a week later, back at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
“We had a game plan tailored for Canada. It’s a mix of what we have been working on and it’s also a little bit tailored for what we have to do against Canada,” Schmidt said.
“The next game against Romania, we’ll probably try to do something that suits that game.”