Dan Kelly admitted it was a “weird mood” within the Leicester Tigers changing room after the six-point, 35-29, Gallagher Premiership win over Harlequins on Saturday afternoon.
Despite recording a bonus-point win over one of the competition’s most in-form sides, who arrived at Mattioli Woods Welford Road in Round 19 having only lost to the first and second places teams on the league table in their past seven outings, Kelly said the overwhelming emotion among he and his Leicester team-mates was “deflation”.
“Look, we held on in the end and that’s positive … we won and that’s what we came to do today,” said Kelly
“But honestly, coming in to the rooms at the end it was a bit of a weird mood despite the win.
“We were a bit deflated because we know we can be much better than that and allowed them back in to the match.”
Tigers led 29-12 at the break, having run in three tries before half-time, and spent the final quarter of the opening forty minutes with only thirteen men on the field after yellow cards to front-rowers Ellis Genge and Dan Cole.
"We were a bit deflated because we know we can be much better than that and allowed them back in to the match"
A gritty defensive effort in the dying stages of the match saw Leicester hold on victory after a fast start to the fixture, which Kelly said was a focus for the group coming in to the match.
“We made a quality start, which is something we targeted through the week,” he said.
“Momentum swings in the game and if you give them a sniff, like we did, they take it … ‘Quins are a good side, they’re in the top four for a reason.
“We are happy we got five points and a four-try bonus point but, honestly, we’re just thinking about what can do better. That’s the standards Steve [Borthwick] sets and the standards we all work towards.”
The 19-year-old is one of four midfielders who Borthwick has rotated throughout the 2020/21 season, alongside internationals Matt Scott, Jaco Taute and Matías Moroni, and - while Taute is currently sidelined through injury - the Leicester youngster is enjoying the chance and challenge of learning and competing with three experienced centres.
“I am so fortunate to be learning from such quality players and people in Scotty, Jaco and Tute,” Kelly said.
“I want to keep soaking information of them, day in and day out … it’s a great opportunity and learning experience.”
Asked about next weekend’s European Challenge Cup Final, the Tigers centre admitted he had not thought beyond the clash with ‘Quins.
“I haven’t thought about it, with today’s game all we have focused on at the club,” he said.
“I’ll recover and recharge the body tomorrow, come in on Monday and review this game and take away what I can do better, then we’ll get in to next week’s match.
“You have just got to play the game, not the occasion.”
Read the Match Report from the Round 19 game HERE.