Matt O’Connor praised the Leicester Tigers’ composure as well as the team’s resilience in securing Aviva Premiership victory over Wasps at Wellord Road on Sunday.
Although Tigers scored the opening points of the afternoon with a Sione Kalamafoni try, it was Wasps who then got on the front foot and they led 15-7 at half-time.
But Tigers did not concede a point in the second half, shutting out a Wasps side that began the weekend in second place in the league table. George Ford kicked the home side back into contention with two penalties and then held his nerve to land the winning points with just four minutes remaining in front of a capacity crowd.
“We got off to a good start, we scored early, but then it was frantic,” said Tigers head coach O’Connor.
“There were a lot of things happening, there are a lot of moving parts in a game with Wasps.
“The tightness of the league, the stakes in the game, the losing run we’ve had with Wasps, there were a lot of things there and for us to demonstrate a bit of grit and character at home, in front of a full house, was enormous.
“The composure and grit to fight it out was massive.”
Tigers lost Manu Tuilagi and Jonny May to injury early on and also played with 14 men in two spells after yellow cards for Nick Malouf and Telusa Veainu.
A try-saving tackle from Mathew Tait on Dan Robson and then an ankle tap from Matt Toomua when Willie Le Roux broke through proved pivotal, while O’Connor was also delighted with the contribution of the Tigers bench.
“Taity’s tackle in the first half gave us an opportunity to stay in the game and the Toomua ankle tap in the second half – without those you probably don’t win it,” O’Connor. “Those are the margins you’re talking about.
“We butchered a couple of good chances too, but four points keeps us in the mix.
“The belief in the boys was enormous.
“We took a breath at half-time, re-focused on what we had spoken about in the week and I didn’t think there was any reason to get jittery. We were defending very well, the set-piece was good. We had to play in the right areas and needed points when we applied pressure, and thankfully we did that. It was incredible bruising game between two very committed sides.”