Matt O’Connor says Leicester Tigers got “exactly what we wanted” out of the first run-out of the pre-season campaign at Cardiff on Saturday.
Tigers gave gametime to 25 players – including recent signings Sam Aspland-Robinson, Campese Ma’afu and Jimmy Stevens – against Cardiff Blues and sealed a 17-15 victory with a late long-range penalty from fly-half Joe Ford.
The visitors had led 14-0 in the first half with tries from development squad members Jordan Olowofela and Thom Smith, but were on the verge of defeat as the Blues claimed 15 unanswered points until Ford landed his decisive kick.
The result was secondary for head coach O’Connor who said there were plenty of positives to take out of the performance of a line-up which included many of the younger members of his squad alongside the more experienced Ford, Matt Smith, Harry Wells and Jonah Holmes.
“There were blokes who had a first opportunity in a Tigers shirt at senior level, which is really pleasing,” said O’Connor. “They will be important from a squad perspective through the year.
"There was plenty of effort around what we have been working on in the pre-season and now we’ll have an opportunity to review that, which is really important at this stage of the year.
“With the side Cardiff picked, with the experience in that tight five, we thought it would be a bit of a battle in the scrum and they had the better of it for parts of the game, but we’ve got a few young guys there with a lot of growth in them.
“It was a good hit-out, no one got broken and to take the result at the end was the icing on the cake.”Matt O'Connor
A crowd of almost 4,000 enjoyed the opening run-out for both sides at the Arms Park, though a day of rain meant quite a change after weeks of training through an unusually hot summer.
“We’ve not any rain in the pre-season so the conditions were a bit different and made it harder for both teams,” said O’Connor. “It probably kept a handle on the pace and the intensity a bit, but that’s no bad thing in a first hit-out.
“The conditions probably affected the quality of the game but I think both sides got exactly what they wanted out of it.”
O’Connor says he intends to add more experience to the squad for this week’s trip to Treviso for the second of the pre-season fixtures and the home game against London Irish on Friday, August 24 (7.45pm) before the kick-off to the new Gallagher Premiership season at Exeter Chiefs on September 1.