Ollie Chessum paid tribute to the work of the coaching and conditioning teams at Leicester Tigers after celebrating his first win with the club in Bayonne on Saturday evening.
The former Nottingham back-rower was at the heart of a big defensive effort as Tigers were forced to dig deep – and with three players receiving yellow cards – on the way to a 28-20 victory which maintained their unbeaten start to the European Challenge Cup campaign.
“It’s a tough, physical sport with 15 on the field so to have 13 requires a huge effort from the boys,” said 20-year-old Chessum.
“Then when the lads came off the sin-bin they increased the intensity again.
“We knew it would be a massive eight minutes at the start of the second half with 13 men and to get the two scores from Zack Henry in that period was massive.
“That requires a huge amount of character and effort from everyone.
“You are blowing and you need that energy, but the fitness is there against a team that wants to play quick rugby. Aled [Walters] and the coaches put that into us.”
Chessum made his debut during the restart period of last season but had to wait for his fourth appearance to experience his first win for the club.
"To do it away in France is a challenge in itself,” he said. “It was a massive effort from everyone, you could see that.
“Jaco led everyone so well. There was a lot of variation in the team – James Whitcombe had never played before, lads like myself had not played in Europe – but Jaco got everyone together on the same page and it was a huge team performance.”
The Challenge Cup campaign resumes in January with the reverse fixtures, against Bayonne at Mattioli Woods Welford Road and then in Brive, with only the top eight in the preliminary stage going through to the next round.
First, though, Tigers return to league duties against Bath Rugby at home on Sunday, January 3 following the cancellation of the scheduled trip to Newcastle Falcons this weekend.