Scotland hero Dan Parks has paid tribute to the courage and maturity of Ireland fly-half Jonathan Sexton following Saturday’s Six Nations clash in Dublin.
Glasgow star Parks produced a man-of-the-match display in his country’s 23-20 triumph, while Sexton endured one of his most disappointing days in his young international career to date.
The Leinsterman was off colour with the boot and had been replaced by Munster veteran Ronan O’Gara by the time Parks sealed Scotland’s triumph with a last-gasp penalty.
But rather than hide behind his own frustrations, Parks says his opposite number was the perfect sportsmen in the immediate aftermath of the Croke Park encounter.
"I want to make mention of Jonny Sexton," said Parks after he guided the Scots to a 23-20 victory that ensured they avoided the unwanted title of Wooden Spoon winners.
"He was given a bit of a hard time out there by the crowd, but after the game he came in to swap jerseys with me but he didn’t want to take mine.
"He hasn’t got a Scotland jersey, and he offered me his and said ‘this is your day’, and that was special to me.
"In the end I got him my second jersey, but he’s a young guy and to do that full credit to him. I hope he gets a lot more caps."
As for his own display, Parks was clearly delighted to have produced the goods on the big stage, even if he was even more pleased with the overall performance of a Scottish side that was without a Six Nations win prior to the trip to Dublin.
Having come so close against Wales, Italy and then England, Scotland finally produced the win their efforts have arguably merited, and Parks was clearly a very happy man at the final whistle.
"I think we’ve deserved a lot more than what we’ve got in this championship," added Parks, who hadn’t featured under new coach Andy Robinson until the beginning of this Six Nations campaign.
"This was just reward. We came here to spoil the party and we certainly did that. We’re absolutely delighted.
It means a hell of a lot. Away from home, Ireland had everything to play for, and you could look at it and said we had very little to play for. But we did because we thought we deserved more than we’d got.
"I’ve been through plenty of hard days. I’ve said all along that if you’re doing your best for yourself, your team-mates and the people close to you, and that’s all you can do, and then other people will be happy."