Cockerill hails tenacious Tigers
January 15, 2011
Tigers scrum-half Ben Youngs was at his effervescent best during the game in Llanelli © PA Photos
Leicester Tigers head coach Richard Cockerill saluted his players after they emerged triumphant from their must-win clash with the Scarlets in Llanelli on Saturday night.
The Aviva Premiership leaders arrived in Wales knowing that nothing less than a victory would suffice if they were to keep alive their hopes of emerging from a fiercely competitive Heineken Cup Pool 5. They appeared to be in real trouble when Stephen Jones slotted over his third penalty of the evening to help the home side into a 13-9 advantage, with Morgan Stoddart's first-half try looking like it might prove decisive.
However, the Tigers bossed the final half hour of the game and registered three tries, through Alesana Tuilagi, Ben Youngs and Steve Mafi, to secure a 32-18 victory which drew them level with Perpignan at the top of the table with one round remaining.
"We had to win tonight, otherwise we were out," Cockerill said. "That's massive when you have to front-up like that, and the boys fronted-up.
"I thought the Scarlets played very well. They are a good side and they put us under huge amounts of pressure. We just had to keep our shape and try to play in the right areas.
"Our away form has not been particularly good, but it has started to turn the corner. Treviso are not an easy side to beat, so we've got to go and do that job first. What we can do is get a quarter-final by doing well next week. For me, we are likely to be away from home (in the quarter-finals).
"Europe is getting harder and harder to win because of lots of reasons, but we want to try to go as far as we can. We want to try to win the tournament - how realistic that is, we will have to see."
The aforementioned Youngs, who picked up the man of the match award after a characteristically dynamic performance, was also ebullient in his appraisal of the Tigers' display.
"This is a great win for us. It was a tough first half - the Scarlets came out with all guns blazing," he said. "We were very aware of what they were capable of, but we are in a good position in our pool with everything to play for."
As for the vanquished Scarlets, they know that they must now travel to Catalonia next weekend and defeat Perpignan if they are to have any chance of making the last eight. Head coach Nigel Davies is remaining upbeat, though.
"I am really proud of the guys - they gave it everything. In the end, we couldn't control the ball enough to give ourselves a platform to go at Leicester," he said. "I thought we had them on the ropes a little bit in the first-half, and I felt we had opportunities. Physically, in the first-half we were right up there with them.
"Perpignan is a very difficult place to win, but we are still in the fight. We are a bit bruised and a bit battered after tonight, but we will bounce back. We gave Leicester a run for their money."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The Scotland coach enters his first Six Nations with at least one familiar face to look to for inspiration - Joe Schmidt. He chats to Tom Hamilton
Italy coach Jacques Brunel spoke to ESPN ahead of his final season as Italy coach and tells of his desire to experiment and evolve
"There's no bull with me, I just tell it straight." Tom Hamilton talks to Warren Gatland in an exclusive interview
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton