Sione Kalamafoni says the ability of the Tigers team to “dig-in” despite losing players to injury and sin-bins in the Aviva Premiership fixture against Wasps was the key to a “must-win” victory.
Speaking from the Welford Road changing rooms after the Round 18 win over Wasps, the No8 was full of praise for his team-mates, in particular his fellow forwards.
“We started the game really well and after 10 or 15 minutes dropped off, which you can’t be doing against a team like Wasps. They will punish you and they did, fair play to them, they really did,” said Kalamafoni.
“We gave away a few bad penalties and obviously had the two yellow cards, which didn’t help us, but in that second half we dug in and came back at them.
“At half-time we came back in to the changing rooms and spoke about the need to re-set ourselves, dig in and get back out there for that win.
"It was a must-win game - and that’s what we did.”
It was more than a month since the Tigers had last played at Welford Road, including fortnight without any fixture in the lead up to the vital clash, and Kalamafoni believes the hard work done under the watchful eye of forwards coach Mark Bakewell was a major factor in delivering on the day.
“I think it definitely helped us,” the Tongan back-rower said.
“Bakes has come in with his ways and with things that have tightened us up a forwards group and helped us showcase what we can do as a pack.”
Kalamafoni was the lone try-scorer for Tigers, on the back of a driving maul which had the Welford Road atmosphere buzzing through until after the final play of the game, and the No.8 admits it was nothing like he had experienced before at the historic venue.
“It was very, very loud. It was incredible,” he said with a smile.
“In those dying seconds of the game, I hadn’t seen Wasps knock-on and was running at the ruck, but it was the crowd who actually made me realise when the Tigers supporters began going crazy. It was amazing to hear it like that, so loud.”
The try was his first for the Tigers Family since joining from Gloucester last summer and also the first Kalamafoni has scored in his Premiership career away from his former home of Kingsholm, which the Tongan international admits was not a statistic he would be questioning.
“Now you say it, I can’t think of another so it must be true," he said. "I do have a bad memory though!”
Kalamafoni was presented his 20-game club tie following the win, alongside Nick Malouf and Matt Toomua, and LeicesterTigers.com caught up with the trio to get their thoughts on reaching the milestone. Click here to see what they had to say.