Leicester boss Richard Cockerill singled out fly-half Freddie Burns for special praise after the fly-half’s goal-kicking exploits sunk former employers Gloucester Rugby at Welford Road.
In appalling conditions, Burns kicked six penalties as Leicester moved up into fourth spot in the Aviva Premiership Rugby table and firmly kept alive their play-off hopes.
Burns has been playing second fiddle to Owen Williams for much of the season but after being handed his chance against Gloucester – the Leicester No.10 was outstanding throughout.
James Hook was equally as impressive off the kicking tee for Gloucester, landing five of his six kicks at goal but it was Burns who proved the difference.
Cockerill said: “I’m delighted for Freddie Burns. He has come in tonight and impressed after a couple of weeks off with a few niggles.
“His goal kicking was fantastic – that’s one of the things I have criticised him a little about.
“There are parts of his game we would like him to improve; like his control of the game with his field positions. It was a night when it was very tight.
“I have been very straight with Freddie – he came to see me about selection and I told him the other bloke is kicking at 75-78 per cent and your return is in the 60s and that’s why you’re not playing.
“He’s working very hard and Paul Grayson has been coming in to help him – the thing I like about Freddie is he’s very critical about his own game.
“He knows what to work on, we’ve been very honest with him and if he does that then he will play.
“Freddie has been very good for us, he took himself out of a relative comfort situation to come here, he has got some real competition but if he wants to be world class he needs to play somewhere where he needs to prove himself. We think that’s here for him and I think he’s doing very well.
“We won’t get too excited about where we’re now sitting in the table, a draw or a loss and it would be a very different situation for us – it’s about where we sit after 22 rounds that’s important.”
The Cherry and Whites are a team high on confidence presently after a clean sweep of their European and LV= Cup games over the last month – off the back of two heart-stopping Aviva Premiership Rugby victories over Exeter Chiefs and Saracens.
And despite the last-gasp loss, Gloucester boss David Humphreys is refusing to be downcast, he said: “We always knew it was going to be a close game and it was going to come down to small margins.
“We had a couple of really good chances in the first half to score a try – a forward pass eventually cost us. We knew it would come down to those small things but credit to Leicester, they held on, they did well and Freddie Burns kicked very well – that was the difference.
“I think in the last few weeks we have proved that we can win those tight games – we showed that against Exeter and Saracens – but we knew it was going to be a step up against Leicester in terms of the physicality and perhaps we’ll look back and think how we started the second half was costly. We didn’t kick or chase as well and that’s disappointing.”
Leicester Tigers: Tait; Thompstone, Catchpole, Bai (Roberts 65), Goneva (Benjamin 69); F. Burns, Harrison; Ayerza (Rizzo 80), Briggs (Thacker 76), Mulipola (Balmain 65), De Chaves, Kitchener, Gibson, Salvi, Crane (Pearce 69)
Replacements not used: Whetton, Mele
Gloucester: B. Burns; Sharples, Atkinson, Meakes (Trinder 65), Purdy; Hook, Robson; Murphy (Thomas 74), Dawidiuk, Afoa, Savage (capt), Palmer, Kalamafoni, Kvesic, Evans (Moriarty 65).
Replacements not used: Lutui, Knight, Hudson, Braley, Reynolds.
Leicester Tigers 18 Gloucester Rugby 15
Penalties: Burns 6
Penalties: Hook 5
Referee: JP Doyle