European victory over Connacht Rugby is another step forward for the Leicester Tigers squad, according to head coach Steve Borthwick.
Tigers scored seven tries in a 48-32 win over their Irish visitors in the European Challenge Cup Round of 16 to earn a home quarter-final against Newcastle Falcons.
A Connacht team that started the season in the Champions Cup and have been in impressive form away from home rallied from 24-11 down at half-time to twice cut the deficit to just two points and also missed a penalty on the hour which would have given them the lead before Tigers stretched out again during an entertaining evening at Mattioli Woods Welford Road.
“First, we’re very pleased with the victory,” said Borthwick at the final whistle.
“Can we play better? Yes. But, like I said last week, this club developed a losing habit and we are trying to change that.
“We took a step forward tonight. Some of the attack in the opposition half was very good – when we had the opportunity. Unfortunately we didn’t get enough opportunities, but there are a lot of positives to take out of it.
“Connacht are a really good team, their coaching team has been together over three years, the team was in the Champions Cup. The boys did well. We have plenty to work on, but we were playing against a very good team.
“They had nearly 1,500 appearances in their starting XV. Compare that with 500 appearances in the Leicester Tigers team – and 250 of those are Ben Youngs – so they have not played much together but we are gradually trying to learn from those experiences and step forward. Look at it in that context and it is great performance in respect of the resilience the team showed.
“It wasn’t perfect, we conceded points too easily, we gave them too many opportunities, but there is a lot to be positive about as well as lessons to learn.”
Borthwick handed debuts from the bench to front-rowers Nic Dolly and Will Hurd, while Guy Porter, Matias Moroni and Zack Henry all notched their first try for the club to go alongside two from Charlie Clare and late scores from Harry Wells and Jasper Wiese.
“At the end we had a front row on the field all 21 or under,” he added. “There is a good group of young players here and the more we can spend time on developing those players, the strength of this team going forward will be better.”
Tiger host Falcons in the quarter-final on Saturday. Kick-off is at 12.30pm.