Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Jenkins hails Lions kickers

Leigh Halfpenny has been in imperious form with the boot

Neil Jenkins described his remarkable crop of British and Irish Lions goalkickers as "the best of the best".

The quartet - Leigh Halfpenny, Owen Farrell, Jonathan Sexton and Stuart Hogg - have landed 55 out of 64 shots at goal between them on the tour of Australia. Wales star Halfpenny, the first-choice Test marksman, has a success-rate of 27 from 29, while England fly-half Farrell can reflect on an 18 from 19 return.

Their accuracy is in stark contrast to that of Australia's after James O'Connor and Kurtley Beale saw 14 points go begging during last Saturday's first Test, which the Lions won 23-21. "We are lucky to have the kickers we have," Lions kicking specialist and Wales' record international points-scorer Jenkins said.

"They are the best of the best. Kicking is a huge part of the game, we all acknowledge that, and Leigh has been a tremendous kicker now for the past two years for us (Wales). He has put a huge amount of work in and he is pretty special in what he does. Personally, he's a joy to work with.

"I'm really enjoying working with Owen and Jonny and Hoggy's doing good work now. The standards of these boys are massive. Someone like Jonny, for example, his work ethic is ridiculous. That is why he's achieved what he has.

"Leigh is not too far away from that level. He works incredibly hard at his game. He probably doesn't stay out there as long as Jonny, but he works incredibly hard. He'll focus on perfecting every spot and won't move on until he is happy."

With the Lions needing victory in Saturday's second Test to wrap up a first series win since they beat South Africa 16 years ago, the battle of the boot is likely to play a major part. And with Jenkins predicting that Australia will throw everything at the Lions in their quest to keep the series alive, accuracy off the tee could effectively decide the contest.

"It generally is goal-kicking that wins or loses Test matches," he added.

"It's important to stand behind your kicker, watch closely at how he is shaping and how things are going. You saw a kick last Saturday when the tee moved a little and he (Halfpenny) pushed the ball to the right, but these boys recover quite quickly and move on to the next kick.

"Leigh gets nervous now and again, gets on top of himself and needs to stand back. But for a lad of his age, he's done fantastically well already and is maturing all the time. Overall, we are fortunate in the quality of kickers we have. All have come on at times and done their jobs. We've had the occasional miss, but that's normal."

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