Steve Borthwick was delighted that Leicester Tigers were “rewarded” for their 80-minute effort with a bonus-point win over Brive in the opening round of the European Challenge Cup.
Tigers led 14-6 at half-time thanks to a Tom Youngs try and 25-12 when Ben Youngs added a second midway through the second period, but the French visitors chipped away at the deficit until late scores from Cyle Brink and Nemani Nadolo finally put the verdict beyond doubt and wrapped up a five-point start in the tournament.
“Sometimes games are like that and you have to put in that work and you get your rewards very late,” said head coach Borthwick.
“Clearly in the first 20 minutes there were too many penalties conceded and that period when we had opportunities in attack we didn’t get into how we want to play. There were opportunities we didn’t take. But we were able to keep going and take those opportunities in the end.
“I’m pleased the players got their rewards in the last 15-20 minutes. Sometimes you’ve got to be toe-to-toe with the opposition and then you get your opportunities late. The players stuck at it and were good enough to take their opportunities.”
There was more good news for Tigers with debuts for Matias Moroni at centre and prop Luan de Bruin, as well as the return from injury of Tomás Lavanini for his first game since last season’s Eurpean semi-final in Toulon.
“It was great to see bits of what Matias can do, to see bits of what Luan can bring, it all adds to the squad,” he said.
“Tomás did a lot of good thing. He returned from injury in really good shape, which is testament to him first and also to the strength and conditioning team at the club.”
Tigers go to Bayonne - who drew against Zebre in Italy in their tournament opener - on Saturday evening in the second round of the new-look competition which features all 14 teams in one pool, with only four games in the preliminary stages.