Ireland overcame a slow start Saturday to run in five tries against Italy and get their Six Nations campaign up and running with a 42-10 win in Dublin.
Beaten by Wales in their opening fixture, Ireland looked rusty after the three-week layoff caused by the postponement of its second match at France and the scores were level just before half-time.
Sergio Parisse's 35th-minute try and the conversion from fly-half Tobias Botes made it 10-10 but Ireland responded with the last move of the half, Tommy Bowe rounding off in the corner following a flowing move from Rob Kearney, Gordon D'Arcy and Stephen Ferris.
Sexton's conversion made it 17-10 and Ireland pulled away in the second half, with Bowe, Tom Court and Andrew Trimble adding to Keith Earls' first-half try.
While Sexton landed seven of his eight kicks on goal for a 17-point haul, Italy was hampered - as so often since the retirement of Diego Dominguez eight years ago - by the lack of a reliable boot.
Botes and Sexton traded early penalties before Earls, in the side at outside center as a replacement for injured captain Brian O'Driscoll, collected the ball from Conor Murray after good work by Sexton and burrowed over for the first try.
Sexton's conversion made it 10-3 and Ireland looked set, especially after Botes could only hit the bar with a penalty earned by Italian pressure. But the home side failed to heed the warning signs and Parisse went over from a pass by Botes after Italy had stolen a lineout.
Botes, making his first start for Italy at No. 10, converted but Italy was level for less than five minutes.
Bowe's converted score put Ireland seven points ahead once more and Botes missed with another kick before a pair of penalties from Sexton.
Bowe scored his second try from a theatrical long pass by Sexton that cut out two men in the line and landed safely in the winger's hands, with Sexton keeping his 100 percent kicking record for the match with the conversion.
Replacement prop Court burrowed through late on for his first try in 26 tests and Trimble scored a breakaway. Sexton's streak with the boot ended only with a missed final conversion from tight on the left touchline.