Aside from highlighting the potential for serious injury that lurks in every professional game of rugby, Wednesday's first outing on actual Australian soil did provide a master class of kicking from arguably, the world game's current number one points kicker, Leigh Halfpenny.
|Leigh Halfpenny, in Cardiff blue at the historic Ricoh Arena.|
Leigh Halfpenny's 11 Kicks Against Western Force.
|Kick Type.||Pitch Area.||Distance to Posts.||Average Probability of Success.|
|Conversion (Sexton try).||Central.||14 m.||97%|
|Conversion (O'Driscoll try).||Touchline.||42 m.||53%|
|Conversion (Croft try).||Touchline.||39 m.||61%|
|Conversion (Heaslip try).||Touchline.||39 m.||64%|
|Conversion (Vunipola try).||Touchline.||40 m.||59%|
|Conversion (Bowe try).||Touchline.||41 m.||55%|
|Conversion (O'Driscoll try).||Central.||15 m.||97%|
|Conversion (Farrell try).||Central.||14 m.||97%|
|Conversion (Parling try).||Central.||15 m.||95%|
In the table above, I've listed each of Leigh's kicks, along with the likelihood that an average, first choice club and international kicker would be successful with each individual attempt. The probabilities are derived from the actual outcomes of 1,000's of such kicks over the last couple of seasons throughout world rugby.
I argued here that Halfpenny could be considered the world's best current kicker, but it was his excellence at distances in excess of 40 meters where he outshone all other current kickers. At distances of 40 meters or less he is still above average, but only just. Therefore, it is perhaps ironic that in a show of outstanding kicking ability, Halfpenny didn't get the chance to demonstrate that area of his talent where he really excels, namely from extreme distance. Halfpenny's figures indicate that he would have had around a 55% chance of converting BO'D first try compared to the league average 53% and each of the other ten attempts also show a small improvement against par.
The table above shows the likely frequency of the number of successful kicks made by firstly an average kicker and then by Leigh Halfpenny. The most common outcome, around a third of the time, would be for nine of the eleven kicks to be successfully kicked. A clean sweep from the eleven attempts is less likely with Halfpenny making such a sequence once every 18 attempts, whereas an average player would make all eleven once every 21 attempted sequences. So 11 from 11 is a reasonably unusual event, but it would have been much more newsworthy if he'd only kicked 5 successfully.
The kicking profiles of the Jonathan Sexton and Owen Farrell, two kickers who were also in the side on Wednesday are similar to Halfpenny's from 40 meters or less, so the Lions are well served with similar, high quality, normal range kickers. But if the requirement is there to kick points from halfway, good as Sexton is at this extended range, the Welshman will be the unanimous choice. Good as Wednesday's display was, Halfpenny hasn't yet had the opportunity to show just how good he really is as a kicker.