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Defensive commitment sees Tigers home

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Tigers may have outscored the league leaders Gloucester by two tries to one during Saturday's impressive win at Kingsholm, but it was a superb defensive effort that ensured the Cherry and Whites were kept at bay in the final stages.

At that the heart of that final effort was Tigers full back Johne Murphy. With just 35 seconds left, Gloucester wing James Simpson-Daniel looked certain to cross the Leicester line having collected Willie Walker’s chip ahead, but a remarkable double tackle from Murphy and Ayoola Erinle ensured Tigers hung on for a vital victory.

“We’ve shown all year that we have the desire that we don’t want anyone to cross our line,” said Murphy, who made a similarly important last-ditch tackle to prevent  Bath from winning at Welford Road last season. “Against Leinster a few weeks ago, we were down to 13 men and we had to work really hard to stop them from scoring and we showed the same commitment against Gloucester. We work hard in training and our defence has been pretty impressive all year. Hopefully that will continue the same way throughout the season.

“Their set up was quite hard to judge all throughout the game, but when you see the ball so close to the line you just dive underneath it and Uggy (Erinle) and I did that. Fair play to Uggy for getting back there as well. It was desperation towards the end but we were determined that they weren’t going to cross our line.”

Saturday’s match was Murphy’s first experience of Kingsholm and the 23-year-old admits he will be taking away happy memories of Gloucester’s home ground, and not just because of a winning performance.

“The atmosphere was brilliant. We were getting some stick when we were warming up, when I was catching some high balls, but it makes the game even better and it makes the win a little bit sweeter. It’s a great place to play and it’s very like our place in terms of the atmosphere and the fact that they respect the rugby you play. Hopefully, we earned their respect on Saturday.

“We’d said all week that we wanted to go down there and put in a performance. They taught us a lesson up at our place at the start of the season so we really wanted to show them how we can play. They were unbeaten at home for a long time so it was very sweet to go there and take that record off them.”

Murphy also admits that the game, and the win, had an extra edge as a result of pre-match talk that both sides were fielding weakened teams due to injury and international call ups.

“The press had been talking all week about how many players we were missing and how many players they were missing and that this was Leicester’s second team. At the moment, the teams that played were Gloucester’s first-choice team and Leicester’s first-choice team so when the guys who are away come back, they’re going to have to work hard to get our jerseys back off us. That’s the mentality we have – we’re first choice at the moment and we want to state our cases for positions, just like the World Cup period all over again.”

Having played most of his rugby on the wing so far this season, Murphy was at full-back on Saturday, while namesake Geordan was away on Six Nations duty with Ireland and, while he enjoyed the experience, he is keen to stress his aim is to pull on a Tigers starting shirt, whatever number it may have on the back.

“It was nice to get a run out at full back – Geordie’s been awesome there this year so it was nice to get a performance in there when he was away. Hopefully, I can push him later on in the season but he’s playing ridiculously well at the moment and he’s a pleasure to play with. I’ve said before that I’d play prop for Leicester if I was asked to – it’s a great club and I’m just happy whenever I’m involved.”