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Perfect blend sets benchmark for the players

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"A proper Leicester Tigers performance" is how Richard Cockerill described the display in the win over Bath last weekend, but he went to some lengths to say there was no lack of skill alongside the commitment and desire he expects to see from the players.

Cockers is nothing if not honest – just ask any player whose standards on the field have fallen below expectations – and he has acknowledged that performances in the opening three games of the season were not good enough for a team of Tigers’ stature and ambitions.
The win at Gloucester was hard fought but hardly pretty after gifting the hosts such a big lead in the opening 50 minutes. Then there was a home defeat at the first time of asking against Wasps and a one-point win at Newcastle in an afternoon described by the Tigers boss as “horrible”.
If not perfect, nine points from three games was not a bad return. We know too that it could have been a lot worse - if Gloucester had hung on, if Newcastle had nailed their last-gasp drop goal or got a penalty at the last scrum.
But the performances had raised a series of questions and the team went a long way to providing some of the answers on Sunday.
“It was a proper Tigers performance,” said Cockers. “There is a lot to be said for rolling up your sleeves and getting stuck in. There was a good balance in our performance, the team brought grit, determination, commitment and passion…”
Before the end of the interview, he also added pointedly: “And a level of skill.”
While the crowd likes nothing more than seeing a full-blooded encounter and Tigers rolling up their sleeves, let’s not forget the skill levels in such a dominant performance and in Bath’s biggest league defeat in five seasons.
It was not passion that provided the lineout steal for the opening try, or led to the midfield break and interplay on the right wing before Brendon O’Connor touched down. Pride alone does not provide a platform for the huge drive by the forwards and the composure shown by Tom Youngs and Ed Slater in their scores.
There were other moments too where it is all too easy to praise the commitment and the cussedness in our teams and forget the individual and team skills which play their part.
It is one game in a long season, but that blend of skill and power isexactly what the coaches are looking for and what the players are working towards.