Leicester Tigers wing Joe Browning shared his mixed emotions after a first hit-out of the new season at the Premiership Rugby 7s.
Browning and his team-mates bowed out in the quarter-finals of the competition at the hands of eventual finalists Wasps, but it was the marked improvement across all three of Tigers’ fixtures that the development man chose to focus on.
“We definitely improved as we went on,” Browning said. “Once we got into it, the lads really grew into the games and we got used to 7s pretty quickly.
“We definitely adapted, because if you compare the quarter-final to the first Wasps game, there was way more team cohesion and we certainly turned up a lot more.”
Drawn in Pool B against Bath Rugby and tournament-favourites Wasps, a young Leicester side were stunned by eight tries to one in their opening match against the men in black and gold.
But after a bonus-point victory against Bath in the following fixture, Tigers progressed to the knockout stages of the main Cup competition – only to face a Wasps side which featured seasoned Premiership players like Paolo Odogwu and Zach Kibirige once again.
“I’ll be honest, the initial thought was ‘oh no, not again’,” Browning explained, when asked how the team had responded to news of their quarter final draw.
“We switched quickly into how we could improve our game, and I think you saw that on the pitch.
“We said ‘we’re here to play 7s’. We weren’t just here to make up the numbers, so we took it to them and tried to make life as difficult as possible for them, get out there and play some rugby, and we did that.”
Four tries, including a three-on-one score for Browning in the corner, meant Tigers were in the fight to the bitter end, but Wasps’ 7s experience eventually told to see them through to the semi-finals.
Despite the result, Browning echoed head coach Matt Smith in explaining the positives to be taken into the extended game.
He continued: “For a lot of us that first game was our first experience of 7s, and we gave up far too much ball.
“We learned from that and adapted quickly going into our second game [against Bath], and then into the quarter-final.
“There’s a bunch of stuff that we can take into 15s. Smithy has talked about it a lot all week, and we focused on our one-on-one tackling, the space identification, the long-range passing – you name it.”
And as for entertaining the crowd with his try-scoring antics?
“I just finished them off,” he laughed. “I’m a winger, so that’s my job.
“If I’m not out there finishing tries then that’s an issue, but it felt good to get over a couple of times.”