Geordan Murphy says the character of the Leicester Tigers players shone through in the win over Wasps at Welford Road on Saturday.
Tigers were forced into early changes with scrum-half Ben White and his replacement Sam Harrison going off with head knocks in the first half as well as centre Gareth Owen before a team also without Matt Toomua and the five England squad men clawed their way in front on the scoreboard.
They still had to survive a last-minute call for a Wasps try which called for TMO checks before referee JP Doyle blew the final whistle to the delight of the 25,000 crowd.
“I’m really proud of the lads’ performance,” said head coach Murphy.
“That performance had character written all over it. We just kept at it, we had guys playing out of position, but did not make excuses, they get stuck in and they we managed to create some opportunities as well.
“We were on the ropes a bit and at half-time I said there are a lot of reasons why we could have been excused for not winning it with the injuries at scrum-half, Gareth Owen off, a wing playing at nine and a seven on the wing. But I thought if we went hard at it and do what we do well we could put them under pressure.”
A penalty just before half-time, from the incident which saw replacement scrum-half Harrison leave the field, made the score 14-9 in Wasps’ favour after two tries from wing Marcus Watson, but did give Tigers something to hold on for after the restart.
“It was difficult to get out of our half of the field in the second half,” said Murphy. “Wasps were very smart there so we spent a lot of time defending, but to a man the team did a great job.
“The guys did so much individually and collectively to keep Wasps out and to get a reward. It was a massive effort. Wasps are a good attacking side, they had the ball, they had us under a lot of pressure.
“I thought Joe Ford was brilliant. He stepped up, he did pretty much everything. And look at that tackle from Dan Cole on Marcus Watson on 74 minutes – Coley is 74 minutes into the game but moments like that win the game for you.”
Tigers go to Sale Sharks on Friday evening in Round 16 of the Gallagher Premiership season before hosting Northampton Saints on Friday, March 22. Tickets are available now.