The Lions: Record-breaker Leigh Halfpenny is happy to miss 007 but not kick No 8
Sunday 07 July 2013
Leigh Halfpenny missed a kick and a champagne celebration with James Bond, but nothing could detract from the extraordinary achievements of the record-breaking player of the series.
Halfpenny scored 21 points in last night's 41-16 triumph and a total of 49 in the three-match series he did so much to win, but you won't find the full-back bigging himself up. That's why he wasn't in the Lions dressing-room sipping bubbly with Daniel Craig after the victory, because he was among his friends from Gorseinon RFC, draped in a Welsh flag and having pictures taken that will become treasured memories for all concerned. Of course, being Halfpenny, he was annoyed at landing only seven of his eight kicks, blaming over-correction for the wind for the one he missed.
Just a week ago he was feeling pure desperation at having failed with the 50-metre kick that would have clinched the series 2-0 in Melbourne, and he admitted it took two days before he could get out of the kind of dark place that Jonny Wilkinson normally inhabits after a miss.
These wonder kickers are funny sorts, desperately hard on themselves but incredibly calm about situations that the rest of us would consider earth-shattering. Here was the greatest points-scorer in Lions Test history struggling to put into words how he felt about being in the record books of the most famous touring team in the world.
In his softly spoken voice, the 24-year-old travelled back to 1997 and remembered watching the Lions' previous Test series win. He said: "I can't put into words what it means to me because it's everything I dreamt of as a kid growing up watching the Lions tour. I wished I could put on the red jersey and be part of a winning Lions tour like 1997, and now it's happened. It's the best feeling ever.
"I was hugely disappointed in Melbourne because I had the chance to win the series, and it was pretty hard after the game; for a couple of days I was devastated. You don't often get a second chance and so we had to take it in this game.
"I didn't know I had broken the Test series points record and I am thrilled about that, but I can't do my kicking without the superb work of my team-mates. This has been a huge squad effort – it's amazing.
"After Jamie Roberts's try you sensed it was game over. I was able to look around at all the Lions fans, and it was the best time I have ever had on the pitch. I will never forget it, and all the hard work you put in is worth it for this moment.
"I missed James Bond because I was meeting my family and mates from Gorseinon, who had told me to pick my head up and not to be so hard on myself. They know I hate missing kicks."
A Lions jersey will be given to Gorseinon rugby club, but he's holding on to the boots that have turned him into a rugby legend.
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