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Cockerill lauds Leicester response as they exact revenge on Munster

Richard Cockerill hailed his players after they fought back brilliantly from one of Leicester's darkest days in Europe to keep their Champions Cup quarter-final hopes alive.

Six Owen Williams penalties - his clincher coming from 52 metres with a minute left at Welford Road - downed Pool One rivals Munster 18-16, a week after they lost by 38 points to the same opponents.

The Limerick result piled pressure on Cockerill and his players, even leading some pundits to suggest that he could be hanging on in terms of his job as Tigers rugby director.

"I don't think a kick at goal should dictate whether anybody loses their job or not," Cockerill said.

"That is the nature of the sport. If the margins are that fine, then it is a tough place to be.

"It (result) shows we are a proper club and we work hard at what we do, and last week wasn't acceptable. I don't think anyone tried to get away from that performance.

"We went into a meeting on Monday and I asked the players to write down one word to describe the performance (in Limerick) and most of it was 'embarrassing'.

"They are good blokes, they are good players. They didn't mean to play that poorly. Sometimes it happens.

"We are a very good club, we pay our own bills, we own our own stadium, there are lots of things that are so good about this place, and I think it hurts the fabric of the club when people are just waiting to poke holes in it.

"We have been here a long time, and we will be here in another 100 years."

Munster hooker Niall Scannell's 75th-minute try, which fly-half Tyler Bleyendaal converted, looked to have thwarted Leicester, but Williams struck after visiting flanker CJ Stander was penalised.

It meant that Leicester ended Munster's 100 per cent Pool One record heading into the final two rounds of group fixtures next month.

Tigers have lost only one of their last 34 European games at Welford Road and, despite seeing England centre Manu Tuilagi sin-binned for the second successive game, this time following a shoulder charge on Munster's Rory Scannell, they ultimately delivered.

Asked about Tuilagi's yellow card, Cockerill added: "They pass the ball and Manu bumps into a player. It was shoulder on shoulder and you can't do it.

"I think last week's (sin-binning) was harsh, and I think this week's was harsh. However, you have to play within the laws, and, if that is how it is going to be refereed, you have to curtail your behaviour to suit the law.

"We will battle to the end in this pool. If we don't get out of it, it will not be for a lack of effort.

"We got thumped last week. Nobody has tried to get away from that. We worked really hard, and the players should take all the credit for what they did today.

"I said before the game we weren't out of it. We are in the arm-wrestle. I am not saying we are favourites to get out of the group, but we will give it a damn good bash."

Reflecting on his match-winning kick, Williams said: "It was a big kick, but that is what I get paid to do. It is my job.

"I just concentrated on my routine and striking the ball, and thankfully it went over. I was quite calm afterwards. I thought I would be jumping for joy, but it was just relief to be honest."

Munster remain in second place in Pool One, two points behind leaders Glasgow with a game in hand.

Munster boss Rassie Erasmus said: "Even if that kick didn't go over, I feel, overall, they played better than us on the day.

"I think we are growing into a steady and a solid team. It's a very tight pool currently. We've got a game in hand, but there are two away games coming, so it's tough to go forward.

"It was a Leicester team that were playing for survival, and they deserved to win the game."


From Belfast Telegraph