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Every point counts in Europe - Burke

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Coach Paul Burke praised the pride and passion of the Leicester Tigers players after getting their European campaign off the mark with a point from defeat against Ulster in Belfast.

Though disappointed to lose 22-16 at Ravenhill after taking an early lead with a try from prop Logovi’i Mulipola, Burke said the attitude and commitment in defence finally got its rewards when replacement fly-half Owen Williams kicked a late penalty to claim a consolation point.

“It was a heroic defensive effort,” said Burke. “We’ve got a few issues with injuries but the character out there was outstanding.

“Past years have proven if you cannot pick up points away from home when you lose then it can come back and bite you in the end, so we’re pleased with a point.

“Every single point is important in this tournament. To come here and come from nine points down in the last three or four minutes of the game to take a point at the death will benefit us in the end.

“It is a difficult place to play and we’re disappointed we weren’t able to pick up the win but the effort from every individual in the team was outstanding.”

Mulipola got Tigers off to a dream start in front of the biggest Ravenhill crowd since the Heineken Cup semi-final in 1999, the year the Northern Ireland province lifted the trophy. The big Samoan crashed in to score on the right wing after breaks by Dan Bowden and Toby Flood had Ulster backtracking.

But international wing Tommy Bowe supplied a reply with a try for Ulster whose fly-half Paddy Jackson kicked the other 17 points from a conversion and five penalties.

Flood added two penalties to his conversion and Williams provided the other three Tigers points while also seeing a drop goal attempt come back off the post.

“We knew how vocal the crowd would be, Ravenhill is a fortress, and knew Ulster would come at us hard,” said Burke. “So it was important we got off to a good start and the try came from us building some pressure and getting the carry and the recycle right, and a great ball from Dan Bowden to give Logo a run at the tryline.”

Miles Benjamin made his Tigers debut after a year on the sidelines recovering from a neck injury, and centre Terrence Hepetema earned his first appearance as a second-half replacement, while Williams was making his first appearance in the tournament.

“It was great for Owen to come on for his first Heineken Cup game for us and to stay calm and kick that penalty to get us back in the game,” said Burke.

“Miles has played 60 minutes in a second-team game in the last 12 months and I thought he was excellent tonight. To come here for his first Heineken Cup game with not many minutes of rugby under his belt and after all he has been through that shows the character of the guy and the squad.”

Tigers return to European action with a home game against Benetton Treviso on Friday (8pm). Tickets are available now.

Matches in the pool stages of the Heineken Cup are included in season tickets. Free upgrades on any junior season tickets are available from the Tigers ticket office, allowing supporters to share matchday with other friends or family if an 8pm kick-off is too late for youngsters to attend. Click here for details.