I screwed up badly, admits Wales star Leigh Halfpenny after Six Nations loss to Scotland
Fullback admits his decision not to attempt penalty-goal kick effectively ended his side’s hopes of victory in the competition
Leigh Halfpenny accepts he made a mistake turning down a penalty-goal chance in Wales’ defeat by Scotland that effectively ended their Six Nations hopes, kicking coach Neil Jenkins said on Tuesday.
The fullback decided he could not go for the posts when given the opportunity to level the match at 16-16 on Saturday at a pivotal moment.
There was confusion at Murrayfield with Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones indicating to referee John Lacey they were going for the posts only for fly half Dan Biggar to end up kicking the ball into the corner for an attacking lineout.
Wales made a mess of the set-piece and Scotland went on to win 29-13 as they recorded their first victory over Wales in a decade.
“I have had a good chat with Leigh and he has put his hand up,” Jenkins said about the 51st-minute incident.
“It’s clear he wasn’t decisive enough, so Alun Wyn has made the decision to go to the corner. You are going to make the odd error in test rugby, but you have to brush that off and go again.
“Leigh didn’t grab the ball and say, ‘I’m taking this’. He’ll accept that and say he’s made a mistake.”
Halfpenny had missed a first-half penalty attempt in the swirling breezes, perhaps influencing his thinking.
But former fly half Jenkins, Wales’ record points scorer, said Halfpenny would recover quickly – and needs to.
“He’s been there, done it – grand slams, championships, [British & Irish] Lions – and I believe he’ll keep doing it at the highest level for Wales for a long time yet.
“I think he’s in the top three kickers in the world and I’ve no doubt that he’ll be ready to go against Ireland a week on Friday.”
Lock forward Jones, a leading candidate to captain the Lions in New Zealand later this year, shed more light on the incident.
“I’ve motioned to the posts. I’m not a kicker and I thought it was a good shot,” he said. “Obviously Leigh didn’t feel the same way hence we’ve gone to the corner. I had every faith in him, but probably on my part I should have consulted him first. But Leigh is a world-class kicker and knows what he can and can’t do.”
Should Wales lose both their final two games of this season’s Six Nations, against Ireland and France, they would drop to ninth in the world rankings ahead of the 2019 World Cup draw in May.
That could leave them facing another “group of death”, just as they did in 2015, when they were paired with England and Australia.
Only the top two teams from each pool go through to the quarter-finals.
Australia and Wales made it into the last eight at England’s expense two years ago and Jones is ready to face a similarly tough draw in Japan.
“Whatever happens we will be in a ‘group of death’,” he said. “We are used to it, but we have to look at games week to week rather than anything beyond that.”