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Red card galvanised us - Cockerill

Published 09/05/2015

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Leicester boss Richard Cockerill hailed his players' "first-class" attitude after they survived a sending-off to beat Wasps 26-21 in a brilliant Aviva Premiership match at a sold-out Ricoh Arena.

The Tigers outscored the hosts three tries to nil in front of a record 32,019 crowd to move into third place on 64 points and boost their chances of a play-off place with one game left - at home to Northampton.

They had to do it the hard way after Fijian centre Seremaia Bai was sent off at the end of the first half for barging into a ruck and catching number eight Nathan Hughes on the head.

The Tigers, who led 18-12 at the interval, scored a third try after the break through Adam Thompstone to add to first-half efforts from Niall Morris and Vereniki Goneva.

Fourteen-man Tigers withstood some fierce onslaughts from Wasps, earning huge praise from director of rugby Cockerill.

He said: "Seremaia getting sent off put the cat among the pigeons, and gave them options to get back into the game.

"But I thought our players' reaction in scoring a try to add to the two in the first half was fantastic.

"The effort and attitude was brilliant. Our attitude across the board, with and without the ball, was exemplary.

"To come here, which is not an easy place with their record, and score three tries and not concede any against a side as dangerous as Wasps, is credit to the players.

"A lot of questions have been asked about us this season and I think today the players answered them.

"They wanted to win. The sending-off galvanised us. Our defence and attitude to win was first class."

Cockerill had no complaints about the red card, saying of Bai: "He is not a dirty player. He has played for a long time and this is his first sending-off. He was frustrated with the circumstances.

"But if you drop a shoulder into someone's head, you are going to get sent off. No complaints."

Cockerill said England lock Geoff Parling should be okay for next week despite popping a rib cartilage.

Wasps' former Leicester fly-half Andy Goode kicked 18 of his side's points in his final home match for the club before joining London Irish.

Wasps director of rugby Dai Young said he was delighted with the 32,000 crowd - a Premiership record outside Twickenham and Wembley - b ut he admitted the best side won.

"I'm pleased with the occasion," he said. "It was fantastic.

"But there are no complaints from me about the result. The best team won.

"In the first half, we struggled with their physicality. We could not control their power and could not get any momentum.

"You don't get into the top four year after year without being clinical and they were.

"The difference between the teams was accuracy, and how clinical they were. In the contact area, they did a job on us."

Young said Wasps' aim was to qualify for next season's European Champions Cup with a top-six finish.

"The target this year was always a top-six finish," he said. "There's still work to do to get into the top four, and that showed today.

"We still have not achieved that so we have to make sure we get a win at London Irish next week."

Young said he was delighted to see England lock Joe Launchbury back after six months and that scrum-half Joe Simpson should be fine for next week despite going off with a knee injury.

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