Cockerill heaps praise on victorious Tigers
May 29, 2010
Leicester head coach Richard Cockerill poses with the Guinness Premiership silverware © Getty Images
Leicester boss Richard Cockerill was full of praise for his players after the Tigers clinched a third Guinness Premiership title in four seasons.
Substitute Dan Hipkiss scored the winning try three minutes from time as Leicester edged out Saracens 33-27 in a Twickenham thriller. "To win back-to-back titles is hard, very hard, and you have got to give the players a huge amount of credit," said Cockerill. "Games like this one are cracking matches - as long as you win them. Saracens could have won the game - if they had won, people couldn't have said they wouldn't have deserved to."
Hipkiss followed centre Matt Smith and scrum-half Ben Youngs over the Saracens line, while fly-half Toby Flood kicked 18 points. Saracens replied with an Ernst Joubert try double and 17 points from Flood's opposite number Glen Jackson. Hipkiss' score came when Leicester gathered possession from Flood's restart after a Jackson penalty, and Saracens were finally finished following an epic tussle.
"I wondered how we would win the ball back," admitted Cockerill. "But Floody kicked it in the right spot, Scott (Hamilton) caught it, Danny finished off and we won the game."
It meant a dream Tigers farewell for their England flanker Lewis Moody, who leaves Leicester this summer to join their Premiership rivals Bath. "Lewis has been fantastic for Leicester," said Cockerill. "He's done everything in the game."
And an emotional Moody added, "Leicester has been a big part of my life since I was a schoolboy. It has been awesome, and it will always be with me. In a game as tough as that one, it gives you a real pride just to play this sport. It was emotional at the end, and I have enjoyed my time - I have a huge amount of fondness for Leicester."
Saracens coach Mark McCall, meanwhile, admitted his team were devastated after losing their first major final since 1998. It was a case of so near, so far for a Saracens side who were denied the services of rugby director Brendan Venter due to his 10-week touchline suspension and one-game Twickenham ban.
Venter was punished by the Rugby Football Union following some histrionics with Leicester fans in a league game at Welford Road three weeks ago, spending Saracens' biggest day at home in St Albans baby-sitting his son Joshua.
"It was devastating to lose the game in that fashion," said Irishman McCall. "We let Leicester in for a couple of soft scores, but when we got our hands on the ball we caused them a lot of problems. All the important decisions have been made this season by the players on the pitch, but we are absolutely gutted Brendan wasn't allowed to be here today.
"Our ambition as a club is to be involved in these big matches year after year, and we know what it takes to get there. If we keep our core values close to us, I have no doubt we will be successful year on year."
Saracens skipper Joubert admitted his team had been punished for momentarily switching off from the restart after Jackson's penalty had edged them 27-26 in front.
"We knew we had to gather that kick-off, but we didn't, and they scored the try. It was a small lapse of concentration," he said. "I thought we just slacked off, and they slipped through to score. The outcome would have been a fairytale had we won, but they don't always end like that, do they? We started the season with a whole new bunch of guys, and I think it is really exciting what is to come from this squad.
"The players are going 'What if? What if?' in the changing room, but we will see it as a great stepping stone for the future."
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