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Rugby News

Use Euro disappointment to push us on - O'Connor

Tigers support Nick Malouf in possession in the defeat by Racing at Welford Road
Tigers support Nick Malouf in possession in the defeat by Racing at Welford Road

Matt O’Connor says Leicester Tigers can use the disappointment of European Cup elimination to drive the team on in the remainder of the Aviva Premiership season.

Tigers were already out of contention for a Champions Cup quarter-final place before a 23-20 defeat at home to Racing 92 on Sunday.

Now O’Connor and team have two weeks of Anglo-Welsh Cup ties before the focus returns to the Aviva Premiership and a push back into contention for a semi-final place for a 14th successive season.

“I thought the performance today was more of what we are about,” said head coach O’Connor after a late Maxime Machenaud penalty separated the sides at Welford Road and secured a place in the last eight for Racing.

“We spoke a lot about actions during the week and making sure everybody delivered on that. But it is disappointing not to win in front of our own fans and that disappointment can drive us in the second half of the season.”

Tigers were 14-0 down inside quarter of an hour but fought back to level the scores with a Brendon O’Connor try early in the second half in a snow-covered Welford Road. The teams then exchanged kicks until scores were tied at 20-20 before Machenaud’s decisive three-pointer.

“We defended really well and we managed field position well in the first half, but we gave them too much of a start,” said O’Connor.

“It was a disappointing start, we gave them too much of a start and, in the conditions and with the quality of the opposition, you cannot afford to give them a 14-point start. That is the difference.

“But we dug in really well off the back of a poor start. To go 14 down was really disappointing and it gave us a mountain to climb. In the conditions and quality of the Racing squad, it was going to be difficult but in the back-end of the first half we were very good and got into a position to try to win the game.

“We fought our way back into the game well, the defensive effort was fantastic, we worked incredibly hard to stop them getting momentum from the big ball-carriers. We managed that pretty well, but we just didn’t have enough opportunities in the second half to come up with the score that would change the outcome of the game.”

Tigers are back on home turf on Saturday when Cardiff Blues are the visitors in the third round of the Anglo-Welsh Cup pool stages. kick-off is at 3.00pm and tickets are on general sale now. Book in person, phone 0116 319 8888 or online.