Leicester boss Richard Cockerill refused to single out individuals and instead praised the team’s collective efforts after the Tigers defeated table-topping Saracens at Welford Road to strengthen their top-four ambitions.
Freddie Burns was the star of the show for Leicester – he scored a try, conversion, two penalties and a drop goal – to help his side leapfrog Northampton Saints into the play-off places on an emotional afternoon at Welford Road.
The match kicked off after the home crowd had risen to pay tribute to former Tiger Seru Rabeni, who passed away this week at the age of 37.
Vereniki Goneva also scored for Leicester Tigers, while Alex Goode – fresh from England’s Six Nations win in Paris on Saturday night – scored all 13 of Saracens’ points.
“I thought it was a proper Leicester performance today, the physicality was good and so was our appetite for the game,” said Cockerill. “We’ve had a tough week of training both mentally and physically but we saw the results of that today.
“We’ve performed like that a few times this season, Exeter and Stade Francais here were both very good, and we saw that again today. Saracens are a good side even when they are missing some key guys.
“We played well, controlled the game well. The tight five and set piece contest was good. We worked really hard and we deserved to win. There won’t be any complaints from anybody about the result today.
“We didn’t take out opportunities in the first half when we should have had one or two tries and I did wonder if that might come back and bite us.
“We kept it positive and kept playing well and we scored a couple of nice tries and deserved to win.”
Leicester's solitary defeat at home in any tournament in the last 12 months was 10-3 to Sale in February and the Tigers showed exactly why they have such an enviable record at Welford Road after the break
The Tigers felt they had a point to prove after suffering a humiliation on the road against Sarries earlier this season, where they conceded three penalty tries at scrum-time.
And Saracens Director of Rugby Mark McCall was understandably upset at the final whistle and pointed to his side’s discipline as a major contributing factor to their loss in the East Midlands.
“They took advantage of our sin-binnings in the second half much better than we did theirs in the first half,” he said.
“We fought very hard and the way we defended first half was outstanding. Today we lacked a bit of firepower and we made a few fundamental errors.
“The Six Nations has hit us hard but we’re very, very proud of our players. All of them have been integral to it. It hasn’t been an easy period for us and everyone knows we’ve been stretched.
“It was good for us to get Schalk Brits back today and Alex Goode had a huge game. Alex is a product of the club and he was desperate to play despite only having a few hours sleep and arriving back at Luton from Paris at 6am this morning.
“Next week it will be great because it will be the first time in nine weeks we’ll have some choices.”
LEICESTER TIGERS: Bell, Thompstone (Veainu 52), Betham, Williams (Smith 79), Goneva, Burns, Kitto (Harrison 48), Ayerza, Thacker (Bateman 63), Mulipola, Barrow, Kitchener, Fitzgerald (Croft 45), McCaffrey, Crane (Fonua 70)
Replacements not used: Genge, Balmain
SARACENS: Goode, Ellery, Bosch, Barritt (Tompkins 48), Wyles, Mordt (Ransom 61), de Kock (Wigglesworth 49), Barrington (Lamositele 49), Brits (Porecki 78), Figallo (Du Plessis 41), Hamilton, Hargreaves (Smith 58), Rhodes (Fraser 52), Brown, Wray
Leicester Tigers 21
Tries: Burns, Goneva
Penalties: Burns 2
Drop Goal: Burns
Penalties: Goode 2
Ref: JP Doyle