Welsh fullback orchestrated the Wallabies’ downfall in three Test series.
British and Irish Lions skipper Alun Wyn Jones hailed Welsh superboot Leigh Halfpenny as “iconic” in world rugby after he was named man of the series.
The baby-faced Halfpenny broke Australia’s hearts with a deadly haul of 21 points from five penalties and three conversions as the Lions swept past the Wallabies in a record 41-16 win to claim their first series since 1997.
The little Welsh fullback with the prodigious kick was named man of the match and the series as he spearheaded the Lions’ four tries to one victory in the series decider at Sydney’s Olympic stadium.
Halfpenny, who finished the Test series with 49 points from five conversions and 13 penalties, featured in two tries and only missed one kick in nine attempts in Saturday’s showdown.
Jones, who captained the Lions for the first time after the controversial axing of former skipper Brian O’Driscoll, said Halfpenny deserved all the praise he has received during the three-Test series.
“I spoke to him before the game, I just said ‘give me a heads up on the range and where you want to take them from’,” Jones said at the post-match press conference.
“He said ‘half way — either side.’ I said, ‘OK.’ That was the conversation. He didn’t disappoint today. Not only off the tee, but with the ball in hand as well.
“I think he’s established himself as pretty iconic in the game now. He’s been a talisman throughout the tour. I think all the plaudits he gets are more than well deserved.”
Jones said Halfpenny’s unerring kicking accuracy had kept the Wallabies on edge about conceding penalties.
“It wasn’t necessarily a boost for us, but I think it was more, we knew Australia would know if obviously he gets it from the 50 (metres line), then anywhere in that grey zone in the middle part of the field, they’d have to be pretty much whiter than white in the contact,” he said.
“And that enabled us to get a bit more of a foothold at the breakdown and we played from there and got some good dents, and penalties as we got close to the try-line.”