It's a straw perhaps that they are clutching at, but the Lions are right to feel confident about the quality of their goalkicking.

Whether it can be a determining factor in the test series as Lions coach Warren Gatland previously suggested is maybe a little hopeful. There is no doubt, however, that the Lions have four men in their midst - Owen Farrell, Johnny Sexton, Dan Biggar and Leigh Halfpenny - who are all world-class goalkickers.

All four have ample experience and the sort of success ratios that keep coaches smiling. All were also left behind at North Harbour Stadium on Thursday, long after their team-mates had packed up, to spend a solid hour refining their work.

Between them, they barely missed and as balls continued to sail between the posts from all over the field. It brought to mind comments made by Gatland when he announced his squad back in April.


"Looking at the squad, the point of difference is maybe our goalkicking, I think we've got four or five of the world's best goalkickers going with us and if we're going to have an edge somewhere it could be in that area," said Gatland. "Beauden Barrett is not kicking at the moment, his brother is for the Hurricanes and it may be the difference."

At face value there is a difference between the Lions goalkicking armoury and that of the All Blacks'. Farrell, Sexton, Biggar and Halfpenny all sit around the 80 per cent success ratio long term, while all have had shorter periods where they have sustained even better figures.

Barrett and Aaron Cruden sit closer to the 70 per cent mark longer term and both have had periods where they have been lower than that.

If the question is which side has the goalkickers with the better success rates, the answer would be the Lions. But that specific question may not be the right one to ask.

The value of a goal kicker isn't entirely driven by success ratios. Rugby doesn't work like that. Sometimes a game can be changed not by the overall quality of a kicking performance, but by just one kick.

How many times in his career did Daniel Carter change the momentum of a game by landing a penalty or conversion that with hindsight could be considered to have been critical?

Look at the last World Cup and the influence Carter had with his boot in the last two knock-out games. What mattered then was that in periods when the game may have been moving away from the All Blacks, he landed pressure kicks, put doubt back in opposition minds and took back control.

Barrett may not need to land a truck load of points with his boot. That may not matter. What might make a difference, however, is that he nails certain moments: that he takes points at times when the All Blacks really need them to either claw their way back or edge a little further forward.


That's the true value of a goalkicker - to chip in with points that simultaneously sink and lift hearts.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, being less verbose, sees that scenario in simpler terms. He sees it as being able to deal with the pressure.

He's big on his belief that test football usually boils down to two evenly-matched teams physically, being separated by their respective abilities to hold up mentally.

Goalkicking is a micro facet of that and to him it wouldn't matter a jot that the four Lions goal kickers were all knocking the ball over so easily at training.

Goalkicking is a little like golf, where putting from four feet is a doddle when it's just for fun and heart-stoppingly terrifying when it is to win the Open Championship.

"I don't think we've lost a test match through his goalkicking," Hansen said of Barrett a few weeks ago. "I don't care [that he isn't the Hurricanes' first-choice kicker]. I know he can mentally cope with the task of goalkicking in the arena.


"There's no doubt the Lions have great goalkickers.

"Now, pressure is a funny thing and I know our guys have lived under that pressure for a long time. And while they might not have the stats to match, I believe and have faith they'll kick the ones that matter," said Hansen. "There's no doubt they have great goalkickers, but on the park, only one of them can kick."