Lions coach Jenkins hails kicking expert Halfpenny

 British and Irish Lions kicking coach Neil Jenkins has turned up the heat on Australia’s goalkickers ahead of the second test and hailed Leigh Halfpenny for his maturity.

Jenkins regularly ran the tee onto the field in the first test, advising Leigh Halfpenny as the Lions fullback landed five goals from six attempts in the 23-21 win.

It was a stark contrast to Australia, with James O’Connor missing three shots at goal and Kurtley Beale missing two potential game-winning kicks in the last five minutes – including a penalty as the full-time siren sounded.

“The importance of goal kicking was seen on Saturday,” said Jenkins, who helped the Lions to victory in South Africa in their last series win in 1997.

“Generally (the result) does come down to goal kicking.”

Beale, who took over the kicking duties from a faltering O’Connor after going on as a replacement in Brisbane, pushed a penalty attempt to the right in the 75th minute and then slipped approaching the tee for a penalty attempt in the dying seconds and ended up on the ground as his kick faded away. The British and Irish Lions jumped ecstatically after escaping with the win, while Wallabies walked over to console Beale.

Australia does not employ a permanent specialist goal kicking coach, something that surprises Jenkins, who formerly owned the test point scoring record.

Jenkins works throughout the season at Wales with Halfpenny, and during the Lions tour with England’s Owen Farrell, Ireland’s Jonathan Sexton and Scotland’s Stuart Hogg.

First-choice kicker Halfpenny has landed 27 of his 29 shots at goal so far on tour, while Farrell has missed just one of his 19 attempts. The Lions are eight matches through their 10-match tour, with only the second and third tests remaining. A win in Melbourne on Saturday will secure their first series win in 16 years.

“We are lucky to have the kickers we have,” Jenkins said.

“They are the best of the best. All have come on at times and done their jobs. We’ve had the occasional miss, but that’s normal.”

“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.”

Halfpenny is expected to be first-choice kicker for the Lions in the second test, while Australia’s kicking duties will be decided after the injuries and the starting lineup are taken into account.

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans didn’t reveal before the first test who was the chosen kicker.

His options were reduced when Christian Leali’ifano went off injured in the first minute and O’Connor missed two penalties in the opening seven minutes.

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