Leicester Tigers kept their composure according to director of rugby Richard Cockerill as they recovered from being four scores down to pull off one of the most remarkable comebacks in Aviva Premiership Rugby history.
Henry Purdy’s try early in the second half made it 31-7 to Gloucester Rugby at Kingsholm in the season opener, and Tigers looked to be dead and buried.
But they held their nerve to get back into it, scoring five tries in all, including a Sam Harrison double to pull off the most unlikely of wins, 38-31.
And for Cockerill, it was Leicester’s ability to stay cool under pressure that won the game, even if he was not impressed by the efforts before that magical last half-hour.
He said: “I’m delighted with the win and the resilience that the players showed. That is something we have been working on in pre-season and we needed every ounce of it tonight.
“But I was so disappointed with the first 50 minutes because we were pretty woeful and we need to put that right very quickly.
“To be fair we were pretty calm at half-time. We wanted to come out and still play positively because that was the only way to get back in the game, and try and score first to put the pressure back on them.
“Credit to the players, we got our composure back, we scored, and Gloucester ran out of steam.
“It was smart play from the team. We got results from the driving lineout and we kept going at it. We messed up a couple of opportunities but it was nice to see a 15-man maul to the line.
“Smart decisions in the last half-hour enabled us to get back in the game and win it.
“We’ve changed our approach conditioning-wise a little bit, we’ve worked hard and pushed the boys a little bit harder.
“It’s a long way to come back from but credit to the players, I’m delighted with the last part of the game but that first 45 minutes is unacceptable from us really.”
While this game will live long in the memory of Tigers fans, the Shed and David Humphreys will at a loss as to how this one got away from the Cherry & Whites.
Matt Scott made a perfect start to life in the West Country, but after his double, they couldn’t keep it up and had to settle for two points.
But that was little consolation for director of rugby Humphreys, who has warned his players they will have to be much better next time out against Worcester Warriors.
He said: “Credit to Tigers, coming back from 31-7. I don’t think there are too many teams who could do that.
“But it’s unacceptable from us to play such good rugby in the first half and put ourselves in such a good position. In the second half nothing really went right, in the set-piece, too many penalties, simple handling errors, things we weren’t doing in the first half.
“It’s not a good place to be, in your first game of the season but for us the message was wasn’t acceptable, to be winning 31-7 and lose the game.
“We’ve got to go away over the weekend and take a really hard look at what happened and make sure that doesn’t happen again this season.
“We’ve got to find a way. The big thing is we have to get ready for Worcester, that’s going to be a huge challenge in itself.
“There was lots of the game that was pretty good but there was too much that wasn’t good enough and if we have ambitions to move up the table and challenge at a higher level than in the last couple of years, performances like that aren’t good enough.”
Gloucester Rugby: Marshall, Sharples (Heinz 70), Scott, Twelvetrees, Purdy, Burns (Hook 41), Laidlaw, Thomas (McAllister 48), Hibbard (Dawidiuk 48), Afoa (Doran-Jones 47), Savage, Galarza, Moriarty, Kvesic (Rowan 65), Morgan (Evans 56)
Not used: Joe Latta
Leicester Tigers: Tait, Veainu (Thompstone 45), Betham, Tuilagi (Smith 72), JP Pietersen, Burns (Youngs 67), Harrison, Ayerza (Genge 48), Youngs (McGuigan 61), Bateman (Cole 48), Slater, Barrow, Hamilton, O’Connor, McCaffrey
Tries: Scott 2, Sharples, Purdy
Conversions: Laidlaw 4
Tries: Tuilagi, Pietersen, Harrison 2, O’Connor
Conversions: Burns 3, Harrison 2
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Aviva Premiership Rugby returns this weekend. For a full fixture list please click here