Leicester Tigers instantly return to winning ways after a sensational comeback against Connacht in Galway.
As anticipated, it did not take long before Leicester were straight back to winning ways. In fact, it took them less than a week to put to bed the defeat at the Ricoh last Sunday and to focus their attention towards what ended in a dramatic finale in Galway.
The Tigers stormed into a 10-point lead inside 10 minutes, thanks to tries from Joe Heyes and Kini Murimurivalu. But dominant forward play built the foundations for Connacht’s swift response to head into a half-time in front.
A rolling maul down the left-hand touch-line on 16 minutes took Connacht up to Leicester’s 5-metre line, giving Tiernan O’Halloran the space to run in just under the posts.
The next score came off the back of close phase play to allow Cian Prendergast to touch down after receiving a delicate offload from Bundee Aki.
The second half began as fast as the first, but it was Connacht who took the initiative this time. Forward dominance leads to a yellow card for Tigers’ Tommy Reffell for being offside at the ruck. His departure followed in an instantaneous blind-side dart from scrum-half, Kieran Marmion to extended Connacht’s lead.
Connacht then secured the try bonus point inside 49 minutes, thanks to O’Halloran’s elegant second.
28 unanswered points saw Tigers succumb to an 18-point deficit, which left them bewildered by the unfolding of events that preceded them.
However, with a team whose 15-game unbeaten run was ended just 6 days ago, it was expected to be an interesting last 25 minutes. But, the performance and result that followed were sensational.
An end-to-end try, finished by Murimurivalu for his second of the game, sparked the possibility of witnessing another phenomenal Leicester Tiger’s comeback, and with a Charlie Clare try on 71 minutes, the unthinkable was made all the more conceivable.
Converted by Freddie Burns, the gap closed to just 4 points with 7 minutes remaining.
However, as the seconds started to tick away, it looked more and more likely that Connacht would have enough in the tank to hold on and claim a memorable victory over the Tigers.
Yet, with just over a minute left on the clock, a majestically floated pass from Dan Kelly out to Hosea Saumaki, gave him just enough space to squeeze in the corner.
Burns missed the conversion from the touchline, but the clock was in the red at the time and so the full-time whistle was blown.
Although it was not the flawless performance we may have anticipated after Tigers’ electric start, it was certainly one to be proud of.
Not only must credits go to Aled Walters, Leicester’s fitness coach for their physical preparation and assuredness on the field, but the work from Borthwick and co off the field should to be lauded. They have instilled self-belief and desire to constantly stay in the fight that was tangible in today’s performance.
It is clear that this Leicester side is nowhere near the finished article that they still have a lot of key areas to work on, but for forthcoming opposition, this is only the more worrying.
A team that is yet to hit their stride, Leicester have a heart and commitment that is unlike anything before. The ability to grind out results regardless of opponent and circumstance have made Leicester a seriously formidable outfit.
With a Round of 16 spot already secured, Leicester’s journey to successfully battle on both a domestic and European front is very much on course.