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Hardwick reflects on topsy-turvy Shield campaign

Tigers development fly-half Tom Hardwick paid tribute to Leicester’s second-string side after the curtain came down on their Premiership Shield campaign at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday.

Hardwick, who started all four most recent Shield games in the number 10 shirt, was keen to draw the positives out of an end-to-end clash against Northampton Wanderers which saw the home side emerge victorious 38 points to 28.

He said: “I thought it was a really good game for the boys, actually.

“Everyone put their heart and souls on the line for our last game of the season, so it’s testament to everyone’s work rate.

“We didn’t quite get the result, but I’m very happy with how we performed. It was a good game to end the season.”

Tigers came out of the blocks quickly against a Northampton side that needed just a point to progress into the Premiership Shield semi-finals, and Hardwick revealed that development head coach Anthony Allen had urged his side to target the breakdown in the opening salvos.

“We said we had to go really hard at the breakdown,” Hardwick explained. “We wanted to get some quick ball, and knew that if we played on top of them, we could be a dangerous side.

“We tried to implement that as best as we could in that first 10 or 15 minutes, and I think we did that very well.”

The game was a cruel reflection of Tigers’ Shield campaign as a whole, with Northampton pulling ahead in the closing minutes despite a Clayton Blommetjies hat-trick and crashing score from Fred Tuilagi.

“The campaign has been a bit up and down in terms of results and performances,” Hardwick continued.

“On a positive note, it’s been good to get some young boys out throughout the season; we’ve had Academy lads playing, as well as some older boys like Sione [Kalamafoni] and Telusa [Veainu].

“Overall it’s been a good mix and blend of players, and all good development for us.

“It’s been fun to play with guest players like Timmy Bitirim and Elliot Creed, too; they bring a different kind of energy, and it’s been really good to have them outside of me.”

And with the conclusion of Tigers’ second-string season, Hardwick explained the squad’s focus will now shift fully to backing up the first team in their final three matches of the Gallagher Premiership season.

“We need to keep working hard for the rest of the season,” he said. “We’ll help prepare the first team as well as we can for the last three games, and then roll on to pre-season as best we can – and get as fit as we can – for next season.”