O'Shea hails 'magnificent' Leicester
May 11, 2013
Harlequins attempt to shackle Leicester's Mathew Tait who went on to claim the Man of the Match honour © Getty Images
Harlequins boss Conor O'Shea was full of praise for Leicester after seeing his side swept aside by the Tigers in their Aviva Premiership semi-final clash on Saturday.
Quins began the game brightly and threatened to upset the odds and keep their title defence alive but the hosts weathered that storm with tries from Niki Goneva, Niall Morris, Tom Croft and Man of the Match Mathew Tait eventually propelling them to a 33-16 victory and an incredible ninth successive final appearance.
"In the second half Leicester were absolutely outstanding, but I will have nothing but admiration and pride for the way we came up here and tried to play," O'Shea told PA Sport. "We didn't go into our shells - we gave it our best shot - but in the second half it was an absolutely magnificent performance by Leicester. I thought we played pretty well today. We just came up against a force in the second half that played at a level we couldn't match.
"We knew it was going to be ferocious. We probably took them by surprise in the first half the way we went about our business, and I don't want people to forget just how well we played in that first 40 minutes. But they just ramped it up. They were brilliant today, they were like rabid animals at times the way they were going into it, and sometimes you lose composure away from home. If we had played like we did in the first half against the majority of teams then we would have been out of sight and over the hill at half-time."
O'Shea reserved special praise for Croft who also weighed in with a crucial try-saving tackle on Quins scrum-half Danny Care in the first half. "Tom Croft is a very special athlete," O'Shea said. "But it is also the physicality he brings to the game - he is an incredible competitor."
Leicester rugby director Richard Cockerill was equally impressed by Croft and the five other players in his side who will join him on the British & Irish Lions' tour of Australia this summer - scrum-half Ben Youngs, hooker Tom Youngs, lock Geoff Parling, prop Dan Cole and centre Manu Tuilagi.
"We know how good Crofty can be. We have been very patient with him, and he's been very patient with us. Our loyalty to those guys who get injured is always the same," he said. "But the commitment from those six Lions today, you wouldn't think they were saving themselves, would you?
"I am delighted with the performance. The (Goneva) try before half-time was crucial for us and I thought across the board the players were outstanding. So much work goes into the season across the board, from top to bottom, and to get to a final - which we have got to win - is great for the club."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Ahead of November's USA-All Blacks match, America's ESPN Magazine explains rugby to its readers who may not be familiar with the game
Tom Hamilton talks to World Cup-winning captain John Smit about life after rugby, his fears over the South African exodus and the World Cup
The reopening of the openside debate, a dominant wolf-pack and a sublime performance in defeat - Monday Maul looks at the weekend's talking points
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the Rugby Championship alongside the best photographs from around the domestic game