Geordan Murphy saluted the goalline defence of his Leicester Tigers team as they held on for victory at Newcastle on Friday evening.
Leading 27-22 with the clock showing barely a minute remaining, Tigers were back on their own line as the Falcons had possession from a penalty. But the defence stood up until referee Wayne Barnes penalised the Falcons and George Ford gratefully kicked the ball out to bring the game to a close.
“In that goalline defence in the last five minutes we showed huge physicality and a huge amount of desire to stop their big bodies within reach of the line,” said Murphy as Tigers stretched the gap over bottom-of-the-table Newcastle to eight points with three games remaining.
“At the end of last season Newcastle dominated in that five-metre area and won the game to get into the top four and deny us. We know it is a strength of theirs and we trained on that and talked about it, and it was one of the areas where we won the game on today.
“The really pleasing thing is that guys just kept getting up and getting into it. I thought guys showed what it meant to them and defended it to a man.
“It got a bit hairy but I’m pleased for the guys, they stuck in, dug in and did a good job and got the result.”
Tigers had led 13-0 in the opening half-hour but trailed 22-20 before finally getting home to take the win with Guy Thompson scoring twice to go with an 11th of the league season from Jonny May.
“We started the game very well and got a 13-point headstart playing exactly the way we wanted to,” said head coach Murphy. “We put them under pressure and took the sting out of them. But we switched off and they got two quick scores to get back in the game.
“But it was always going to go to the wire and we stuck in it. There was a huge amount on the line and we were really keen to get the result.”