Matt O’Connor praised the players who returned to action after injury breaks to play their full part in Sunday’s dramatic win over Sale Sharks.
Mike Williams and Gareth Owen returned after recovering from injuries picked up in the early rounds of the European Champions Cup last month, while Mike Fitzgerald played for the first time this season after surgery on a knee injury suffered in pe-season.
Williams got through the full 80 minutes while Fitzgerald – who was only added to the starting line-up when Dom Barrow reported sick on Sunday morning – played 77 minutes and Owen got through more than an hour, leaving the field after scoring a try which gave Tigers a priceless lead on 65 minutes.
“I thought all those boys got through a huge shift,” said Tigers head coach O’Connor after the 35-27 victory which pushed Tigers into third place in the Aviva Premiership table with eight rounds played.
“They were coming back from injury and I thought they were very good. It says a lot about his professionalism that Fitz had prepared all week to be on the bench after being out with a knee injury but he stepped in when Dom pulled up sick this morning and came through it well.
“There were lots of guys who came back in after the Anglo-Welsh weeks and they all had to get through a lot of work. Ellis Genge, too, came back on Wednesday from England and was very keen to be involved and was very good for us.”
The lead changed hands eight times on a frantic afternoon, with Sharks claiming their bonus-point score in the 51st minute and Tigers waiting until a final attack for Nick Malouf to grab a vital fourth score to take maximum points.
“I thought our composure was pretty good, to keep working hard and take our chances,” O’Connor said. “We were a bit disappointed in the first half, we gave them too many chances and they have very good players on the outside.
“Sale put us under pressure and they have guys who will finish if you give them opportunities.
“We said at half-time that we’d have to be better and make sure we won the middle of the field, which I thought which we did in the second half. Our discipline was fantastic, too. We didn’t give them opportunities to take cheap points when they had their noses in front and that was massively important in the end.”
“It was a pretty good team performance in the end and everyone delivered what they needed to deliver on to make us function. It’s an important five points.”
Tigers are back on home turf on Saturday when Worcester Warriors are the visitors. Kick-off is at 3.00pm and tickets are available now. Book in person at the Tigers store in Highcross Shopping Centre, phone the ticket office on 0116 319 8888 (option 2) or book online.