No rest for Mr Perfect

Leigh Halfpenny would love to take his immaculate kicking display against the Western Force into the three-match series with the Qantas Wallabies later this month but he insists 'it's back to the training ground tomorrow'. [more]

No rest for Mr Perfect

Leigh Halfpenny would love to take his immaculate kicking display against the Western Force into the three-match series with the Qantas Wallabies later this month but he insists ‘it’s back to the training ground tomorrow’.

Halfpenny was in imperious form in The Lions’ 69-17 success in Perth, contributing 24 points with the boot and succeeding with all 11 of his attempts at goal.

The Cardiff Blues and Wales star wasn’t presented with an easy ride either, with five of his nine conversions coming from just a metre or two in from touch.

Team-mate Tommy Bowe described the display as ‘unbelievable’, while head coach Warren Gatland told the world’s media it was ‘pretty special’, but Halfpenny himself isn’t getting carried away.

While he recognises it was one of his best kicking displays of his impressive career to date, he is convinced only more hard work will give him any chance of finding similar form in the first Test in Brisbane on June 22.

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“I think that’s up there with the best I’ve kicked, there’s no doubt about that,” said Halfpenny.

“I’ve had some games where I’ve managed a few but nowhere near as many as that. To kick all 11 was incredible from a personal point of view.

“But the way I see it, I’ve got the easy bit. All the boys are doing the hard work scoring the tries.

“Hopefully, if I’m selected then I can step up to the plate like that against Australia. I’ll take that kind of performance all day.

“I’m so pleased with how it went. But it’s back to the training ground tomorrow and that hard work starts again.”

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Leigh Halfpenny converted both of Brian O'Driscoll's tries and all seven others in Perth

So just what was it that made Wednesday’s effort from the tee so perfect? Did Halfpenny do anything differently or have any idea that he would hit such a rich vein of form on his first outing with the 2013 Lions?

In short, the answer is ‘no’ on both fronts. The 24-year-old simply stuck to his routine, focussed on one kick at a time and subconsciously remembered all the little things that Lions kicking coach Neil Jenkins has talked about in recent weeks and across their time together with Wales and the Blues.

“I suppose some days you just find that sweet spot early on,” added Halfpenny.

“I came off the pitch not knowing how many I’d kicked because I try and stay focused. I have a picture in my head of how I want each kick to go. I always try and hit the middle of the goal and there’s a lot of work that goes in with Neil Jenkins and the other kickers.

“I can't think of a better guy to have teaching me and have alongside me in games and in training than Jenks. He's a legend of the game, a real top points scorer and his record speaks for itself.

“He's a world-class kicker and I'm really lucky to have him around. He's brought me on hugely having worked with him since I was a kid growing up in the academy days.”

So what about the pressure? What about the added responsibility of attempting to keep the scoreboard ticking over for the most-famous touring team of all?

While he has spoken of butterflies and nerves in the past, Halfpenny insists he isn’t fazed by that at all. Instead he relishes the role and claims it’s something he feels fortunate to be able to do at all.

“To be honest, the pressure is a real privilege. You're really lucky to be in a position to be kicking for The Lions,

“It's been a huge dream of mine and I would never have thought I would be doing it. But I love every second of it.

“Your nerves kick in when you’re told you’re playing but you just do what you’ve always done: it’s about staying focused.

“I always enjoyed goalkicking as a kid and I’ve tried to work hard at it. You dream of it and watch the likes of Neil Jenkins, Jonny Wilkinson and Dan Carter and you want to be like that. That's how I always felt and to have kicked for the Lions is just a really special feeling.

“Ever since I was on the plane back from South Africa in 2009 I have been dreaming of this moment, of pulling on a Lions jersey again.

“I got the opportunity and it was a pretty special feeling. But there are still areas of my game I need to work on because I want to take my game to the next level. It’s now about getting back on to that training pitch.”

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