Tigers were missing their senior international players, but came from eight points down in the opening 10 minutes to beat the Exiles 22-15 at Welford Road and record a first win in this season’s LV= Cup competition.
“It was all about the squad, just as it was against the Maori All Blacks on Tuesday,” said Tigers director of rugby Cockerill.
“It is always a risk with two cup ties and a midweek game in a short space of time, but the lads should be proud of the result. It’s been a good few days for the club.
“We had a lot of lads out there who haven’t had a lot of rugby this season but we thought it was a team good enough to win if we played really well. It was important to show some character and the guys did an excellent job.”
Second-rower Rob Andrew scored the Tigers try, with George Ford kicking the other 17 points as Tigers hung on to the win despite playing the last quarter-hour with 14 men after Boris Stankovich has been red-carded for what referee Ian Davies judged to be foul play in a tackle on Irish scrum-half Darren Allinson.
“I really feel for Boris,” said Cockerill. “He’s not a dirty player and it looked a bit harsh. That’s disappointing, but the lads got on with it. We conceded a bit of momentum when we were down to 14, but the attitude to keep going and keep scrummaging was very good and I’m glad we were able to close it out.
“All the boys got stuck in, everybody played their part. It wasn’t flash but it is a good win for the effort and commitment of the team.
“Now we go into two very important league games at Wasps and then at home to Bath.”