Tigers took four points in the Round 10 fixture at Welford Road with a try from Adam Thompstone and 12 points from George Ford in a 17-12 victory in which a 20,000 crowd also witnessed three red cards and two yellow cards.
Tigers director of coaching Cockerill said: “It’s a very important win for us because it puts us back into the top four in the table rather than in seventh or eighth going into the European games over the next two weeks.
“It’s very tight at the top of the table and we could have lost a bit of ground without this win so it is massive for us, especially with a third of the England team not available to us.”
Tigers welcomed back props Marcos Ayerza, who was named Aviva man of the match, and Martin Castrogiovanni at the end of their international duties, but were still without Tom Youngs, Dan Cole, Geoff Parling, Ben Youngs and Manu Tuilagi who were playing their part in England’s win over New Zealand.
“It was about winning for us today,” said Cockerill. “The performance was a little bit disappointing because you cannot have that amount of territory as we did in the first half and not come away with the points.
“But we were just five points down at half-time and were still in the game. We were the better side, we had the ball, the possession, the chances, but we just couldn’t finish them off. They were giving loads of penalties away too and they defended very well so they made it very hard for us.
“It was scrappy at times but we got the win because we kept our composure and we were patient and we came through in the end.”
Anthony Allen left the field on a stretcher following a challenge from Matt Banahan which resulted in the Bath centre receiving a red card, which was quickly followed by a red for Tigers back-rower Brett Deacon. Bath had already lost flanker Francois Louw to a red card, while also seeing Simon Taylor and Stephen Donald sin-binned during a 15-minute spell in the second half.
Cockerill reported that Allen had recovered sufficiently to sit up in the dressing room after the game.
“Anthony Allen is sitting up in the dressing room. He’s a bit dazed but he’s okay,” Cockerill said.
“Banahan is a big man but not a dirty player. He hits Anth with momentum and a bit high, but it probably looks worse than it is with Anth unconscious. Brett Deacon retaliates and he’s off as well. But that’s the game we live in. I thought it was a good hard game.”