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Cold-blooded kicker rewards Tigers' efforts

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It was heart-in-the-mouth stuff, but the strength of will shown by the Tigers in beating Munster at Welford Road last week should not be under-estimated.

In any circumstances, inflicting a first defeat since October on the PRO12 league leaders cannot be taken lightly, but doing so just seven days after the embarrassment of a 38-0 record defeat showed some steel in the Tigers stripes from a squad who dug to their deepest reserves.
Everyone was hurting after the performance in Thomond Park and there was no shortage of criticism and opinion being thrown in the direction of Tigers doors. No one, either, was hiding away from the fact it was not good enough and would have to be corrected as quickly as possible.
As Cockers said about the defeat in Thomond Park, “It’s done, it’s in the history books, there’s nothing we can do about it now.” But there had to be a response. And it had to come quickly.
To see it at first hand was rewarding for the home crowd and the style of it produced one of those genuine European “I was there” moments.
A large travelling support helped to produce a noisy backdrop to one of those great European rugby occasions as both sides went out with their foot on the gas.
The opening 20 minutes was as fast and furious as anything The Tig can recall, both teams up for it and on their game. Mistakes were forced by the ferocity of the occasion rather than by any lack of basic skills. The forwards did not give each other an inch of breathing room, the backs coiled like springs ready to make the most of any space they encountered.
Yet it still came down to the last few minutes of action. First, Tigers looked in control, then Munster grabbed the lead with a clinical finish to a lineout drive. But the day was not done, and neither was Owen Williams.
Time was ticking on when Williams decided he could land a penalty kick from inside his own half. With 24,000-plus pairs of eyes staring in his direction and 24,000 hearts pounding, Owen struck through the ball and crouched slightly as he watched it head goalwards. Seconds later, flags were raised, points scored, match almost won.
There are fans of both teams who still talk about the winning kick from Ronan O’Gara in similar circumstances at Welford Road in 2006. Rarely can three points in an opening-round fixture have been elevated to similar myth and legend status – especially as the beaten hosts on that day went on to top the pool and reach the final at Twickenham.
History may not recall that Tigers were missing the likes of Cole, Ayerza, Croft, Pietersen, Toomua, Veainu and Tait. But neither will the history books recall the emotion of the day, the atmosphere created by two sets of fans or the sheer bloody-mindedness of the home team after the embarrassment of just a week earlier.
But history, and everyone inside the stadium, will recall Owen’s kick. It deserves to be remembered, not just for the player’s technique and nerve, but also as a reward for the efforts of the whole team when their backs were truly against the wall.