British & Irish Lions band around Leigh Halfpenny

The British and Irish Lions have given their support to fullback Leigh Halfpenny
after he missed a long-range kick and chance to win the tourists’ first series
for 16 years against the Wallabies on Saturday.

Last week Australian fullback Kurtley Beale missed a kick on full time which
could have won the match but this week it was Lions who felt pain at the end
of the match.

Superboot Halfpenny, who had missed only three kicks in his previous 35 goal
shots on tour, had a penalty from halfway to claim the series for the Lions
after the 80th minute only for the attempt to fall just short.

The previous week Kurtley Beale had a kick at the death to win the first Brisbane
Test for Australia only to slip on his run up and miss the penalty shot.

The Lions were philosophical about Halfpenny’s inability to land the difficult
kick for victory.

“I’ve seen him kick them from there before. He just didn’t strike that
one well enough. Just a chance to be a hero in that moment,” Lions coach
Warren Gatland said.

“He’s obviously disappointed with himself, but he still kicked incredibly
well and has had one that hit the crossbar in the first half and that’s the
difference between the two sides and he had a 55-metre (angled) kick at the
end to win it.

“He’s such a professional. He realises the significance of that kick at
the end and he’s just disappointed he missed.”

Captain Sam Warburton was sympathetic with his despairing Welsh teammate after
Halfpenny finished with five penalties from seven attempts.

“I’ve seen Leigh kick them before so I think it was a good decision to
go for the three points. In training he’ll bang them over but he just didn’t
connect,” Warburton said.

“He can’t blame himself, it was an extremely difficult kick. Come Monday
morning he’ll be fine, he’ll be back kicking with Jenks (goalkicking coach Neil
Jenkins) and he’ll be as good as gold.

“It was the right decision, he had to go for it because it was a realistic
opportunity to win the Test series and if I was on the pitch I would have looked
at Leigh straight away and told him to go for it.”

Warburton came off 13 minutes from the end with an injured hamstring and is
unsure if he will be able to play next week in Sydney.

“I’ve got a sore hamstring. I’m not sure, I haven’t done it before.This
is a new injury, so I’m not too sure to be honest.”

Warburton said the team physios will make an assessment on him over the next
48 hours.

But whether he plays or not, Warburton said the engrossing Test series was
poised to be decided in another cliffhanger next week.

“It’s going to go down to the wire in the third Test. That’s what happens
when you play a world-class side like Australia,” he said.

“We obviously didn’t finish the way we wanted but we’ve got every chance.
We’re in the same situation now that we were this morning — we’ve got a Test
series up for grabs.”

“It’s not doom-and-gloom at all. Very positive from tomorrow morning onwards.

“Whatever happens, I always expect the Aussies to keep going until the
81st minute.

“Going into extra time, they’ll always keep pressing, That’s the one thing
I’ve learnt the hard way with Wales and it’ll be the same next week.”

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