Leicester Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill admits Telusa Veainu’s try-saving intervention in the second half symbolised the guts it took to string together their fourth Champions Cup victory this season.
The Tigers brilliantly beat Munster 31-19 at Thomond Park last week, but the Irish province troubled Cockerill’s men at times on Sunday.
If not for Veianu’s chase back of a try-bound Francis Saili – with the score hinged at 10-6 – it could well have been a different story, but Niki Goneva went on to wrap up a 17-6 win.
Captain Ed Slater had bundled over before the break while a fit-again Freddie Burns added seven points from the tee, but Cockerill was in no doubt what the turning point of the game was.
“It’s a great four points, I’m a little bit disappointed with the performance,” said Cockerill, whose side take on Newcastle Falcons back in Aviva Premiership Rugby on Boxing Day. “But I thought the guts to defend and chase back and deal with some of the issues we put ourselves under was immense. It got us the win, I think.
“I thought Munster played exceptionally well and they probably got the edge on us a little bit.
“(Veainu’s chase back) probably won it for us, it was the moment that won the game. From having field position and the scrum, for them to intercept and Telusa to get back, was immense. It got the stadium on its feet.”
It was not such a rosy Sunday for Exeter Chiefs however, as Clermont avenged their defeat at Sandy Park with a 42-10 win over the West Country side back in France.
Despite a promising start, which yielded a Gareth Steenson penalty, Exeter never truly found their feet – but they are still in a healthy position in Pool 2, with ten points and two games to go.
Head coach Rob Baxter admitted: “Personally I’m a little disappointed and frustrated at how quickly we went off plan as individuals. We started very brightly, the things we were doing were OK, but the plethora of penalties we gave away really gave the referee no option but to ping us.
“In the bigger picture it may not mean too much, we’ve still got two games in the pool to go and we’d have certainly had to win one of them even if we’d have won here. Now we’ll definitely have to win the two.”
Wasps centre Elliot Daly and Saracens flyer Chris Ashton put forward their cases to new England coach Eddie Jones after two stunning individual performances from their club.
In Wasps’ all-Aviva Premiership Rugby clash with Bath Rugby, Daly drummed up a superb breakaway try while fly-half Jimmy Gopperth came to the fore with a 23-point haul – inspiring a 36-10 victory.
And in north London, Ashton notched a hat-trick, with Samuela Vunisa (2), Alex Goode, Mike Ellery and Jamie George joining him over the line, as Saracens thumped Oyonnax 55-13.
It leaves both Wasps and Saracens top of Pool 5 and Pool 1 respectively, while Bath head coach Mike Ford admits it’s back to the drawing board.
"We've just got to have a good review of everything," said Ford, with his side now six points behind Wasps in Pool 5. "We're getting stale doing the same things.
"What I'm going to do is sit down with the coaches and management and review everything we've done and ask questions.
"Are we doing things right? And the players are probably going to do the same.”
The race in Pool 3 is also hotting up after Northampton Saints kept New Zealand legend Dan Carter in relative check at Franklin’s Gardens in a 9-9 draw with Racing 92.
Stephen Myler and Carter slotted three penalties apiece, leaving Saints two points behind leaders Racing 92 and a point ahead of Glasgow Warriors. Racing 92 and the Warriors are yet to play the game postponed due to the Paris attacks.
"We need to win and get some bonus points in our last two games,” admitted Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder. “It is a bit like our league position – we aren't where we want to be, but we are still in there fighting.”
Leicester Tigers 17 Munster 6
Tries: Slater, Goneva
Conversions: Burns 2
Penalties: Keatley 2
Referee: Jerome Garces
Clermont 42 Exeter Chiefs 10
Tries: Strettle, Lapandry, Lee, Vahaamahina, Davies
Conversions: Parra 3, Lopez
Penalties: Parra 2, Spedding
Referee: Marius Mitrea
Saracens 55 Oyonnax 13
Tries: Ashton 3, Vunisa 2, Goode, Ellery, George
Conversions: Farrell 4, Hodgson 2
Penalties: Lespinas 2
Referee: George Clancy
Bath Rugby 10 Wasps 36
Tries: Daly, Gopperth, Leiua
Conversions: Gopperth 3
Penalties: Gopperth 4
Referee: Roman Poite
Northampton Saints 9 Racing 92 9
Penalties: Myler 3
Penalties: Carter 3
Referee: Nigel Owens