Geordan Murphy says a second-half fightback in Pau allows Leicester Tigers to “live to fight another day” in the quarter-finals of the European Challenge Cup.
Tigers secured qualification from Pool 5 with a round to spare but, after at 24-7 down after an hour in Pau on Saturday afternoon, they faced the prospect of going on the road to a French club again in the last eight.
A strong finish to the game at the Stade du Hameau, however, allowed Tigers to get back within range with a try from Ben White and then for fellow academy graduate Tom Hardwick to land a last-minute penalty which earned the necessary bonus point in a 24-17 defeat to finish in the top four seeds alongside Toulon, Bristol and Bordeaux-Begles. By Saturday evening it was confirmed that Castres would travel to Welford Road in April’s quarter-finals.
“We started poorly, we gave them 14 points very quickly and I thought we looked a little shell-shocked,” admitted head coach Murphy after the final whistle in the south of France.
“From there, though, it was about getting the job done. We wanted something out of the game and we were aware of permutations around the bonus point.
“It was imperative we got back into the game and we did that well. We deserved something out of it – we got held up over the tryline, we had a couple of opportunities and didn’t take them, in the second half we maybe left a couple out there.
“We'd like to be better, but to get the bonus point and a home quarter-final is just enough. We have an opportunity to fight another day in this competition.
“Games like today are an amazing learning experience for all the players, especially the young guys.”
As Tigers switch attention back to the Gallagher Premiership and a trip to Bath next Saturday, Murphy says the European run has helped the squad’s development and confidence.
“We’ve given time to a lot of players in this competition and the guys have been putting their hands up,” he said. “I’m proud of the way this side has gritted it out and got some good results.
“We look forward to the quarter-final but we can some big games in the Premiership to come first.”