Stuart Hogg scored one of the most impressive tries of the 2016 Six Nations tournament but it was not enough to prevent Scotland from finishing their mixed campaign with a feisty and high-scoring 35-25 defeat to Ireland at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
Scotland, who handed the title to England last week by beating France at Murrayfield, were made to pay for some early indiscipline as Sexton gave the hosts a six-point lead from the tee. Greg Laidlaw hit back with a penalty of his own and Vern Cotter's side then took the lead courtesy of a sensational converted try from Hogg. The Glasgow Warriors full-back set off from his own half before selling a dummy pass towards Tommy Seymour and racing through a gap in midfield for arguably the best individual score of the competition to date.
Blindslide flanker John Barclay was shown a yellow card by referee Pascal Gauzere for entering a ruck from the side and Ireland ruthlessly exploited their numerical advantage as a period of pressure led to CJ Stander going over. The try was eventually confirmed after lengthy deliberation from the Television Match Official (TMO).
Keith Earls was the next man to touch down, marking his 50th cap with a simple score after Seymour and Hogg had collided in calamitous fashion while trying to deal with Sexton's clever kick. Another penalty from the reliable fly-half sealed a 21-13 half-time lead.
A lineout deep inside the opposition 22 allowed the towering figure of Devin Toner to set up Tommy O'Donnell for a rolling maul. It eventually broke down short of the line, but Conor Murray helped keep the attack alive before diving in from close range.
Scotland refused to lie down and got their reward when Duncan Weir sent through Richie Gray for a simple try. Their momentum was stifled, however, when Alex Dunbar was dispatched to the sin bin for a dangerous clear out on Sexton at a ruck. Again Ireland wasted little time in punishing such an error as lock Toner notched his maiden international score before a major scuffle broke out between both sets of players.
The final 10 minutes saw tensions repeatedly run high, with Sexton cautioned for an infringement at the breakdown. Dunbar grabbed a late consolation after some quick hands from the Scotland backline. Laidlaw missed the subsequent conversion and there was little time left to mount a comeback.