After seeing a young Leicester Tigers side produce a stirring second-half fightback to secure victory over Sale Sharks in the LV= Cup, fly-half Freddie Burns is confident the belief is back at Welford Road.
An experienced Sale pack displayed their set-piece dominance as they established a 13-3 half-time lead through lock Michael Paterson’s converted try and two Nick Macleod penalties.
Yet the hosts showed renewed ambition after the interval, matching the Sharks at the scrum and providing the platform for Miles Benjamin to cross over twice, with Matt Smith and Harry Thacker also touching down.
Richard Cockerill’s injury-plagued Tigers have endured mixed fortunes with three wins and three defeats in Aviva Premiership Rugby this season but are now two from two in the LV= Cup.
And Burns insists the qualities shown by players such as man-of-the-match Ed Milne making their Tigers’ debuts bodes well for the rest of his side’s campaign.
“We had some great youngsters in the team and I think in the first 20 minutes they were just a little bit in awe of the guys they were up against,” he said.
“That last five minutes before half time showed we can really match them and we had a bit of a dressing down at the break so came out to show what we are worth.
“We’ve been missing a little bit of belief this season but if we lacked it before we’ve definitely got it now. A lot of people would have seen Sale’s pack and thought we had no chance.
“There were a few tough moments for me in the first half but after that the pack made my life so much easier and it’s great for them to perform like that in front of a big crowd.
“Hopefully it will get the rest of the squad off the injury beds as these boys showed what being a Leicester Tiger is all about and we’ll be ready to get into Saracens next week."
Sale failed to build on a tense win against Wasps last weekend, with captain Dan Braid admitting his frustration as his side struggle for consistency.
Yet the Kiwi flanker insists his players should still take plenty of positives from the last two weeks as they prepare to resume Aviva Premiership Rugby duties.
“It was a thoroughly disappointing second half after I thought we controlled the game very well in that first half, particularly up front,” he said.
“Leicester were smart after that – they took our drive away from us by standing off and were smart at scrum time as well but then they just out-enthused us.
“It’s very puzzling and I’ll have to have a look at the game again as it’s hard when you’re out there when you turn around from being so dominant to not get your line out
“The consistency hasn’t been there this season and we were looking to use these LV= Cup games to build back into our Premiership games coming up
“But we have to take confidence from what we can do in that first half and look to put an 80-minute performance together.”
Leicester Tigers: Bell, Thompstone (C Thacker 54), Smith, Bryant, Benjamin (Roberts 77), Burns, Harrison (Mele 77), Bristow (Brugnara 49), H Thacker (Priestley-Nangle 71), Pasquali (Cole 49), Maksymiw, de Chaves, Wells (Farnworth 42), Beckett, Milne (Sio 73)
Sin bin: Smith 22
Sale Sharks: Haley, Arscott (Ingall 74), Forsyth, James, Mackenzie, Macleod (Ford 74), Fowles (Cusiter 78), Roberts (Flynn 72), Jones (Neild 72), Harrison (Fearns 78), Ostrikov, Paterson, Braid (Lund 60), Seymour (Hughes 77), Beaumont
Sin bin: Haley 62
Tries: Thacker, Smith, Benjamin 2
Conversions: Burns 3
Penalties: Macleod 2
Referee: Darren Gamage
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