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Browning salutes Leicester Tigers’ intensity after sealing back-to-back Under-18s titles

Browning salutes Leicester Tigers’ intensity after sealing back-to-back Under-18s titles

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Joe Browning hailed the intensity of Leicester Tigers as he capped consecutive unbeaten seasons with two tries on Premiership Rugby Under-18s Academy League Finals Day.

His side defeated Gloucester Rugby in the final for the second year in a row – triumphing 34-31 at Allianz Park to make it back-to-back crowns.

And the winger praised their fast start as they got out to an early 24-0 lead, providing the backbone to their success, before holding off a roaring Cherry and Whites comeback.

He said: “The last five minutes were interesting! We started well but dropped off at the end.

“Credit to the boys for coming through. And you can’t ask for much more than two tries on Finals Day.

“Going out hard from the off is a big thing for this team. Physicality and intensity has always got to be up there, and it certainly was in the first 20 minutes.”

The victory means it is back-to-back wins in the competition for Tigers and a second consecutive year they have gone unbeaten at Under-18s level – lifting the trophy 12 months ago after a 43-21 win over the same opponent.

And Browning, 17, credited the coaches for developing him and his teammates in his time at Welford Road so far.

“My development as a player over the last two years has been massive,” he added.

“In every aspect – strength and conditioning-wise and understanding-wise especially – I have a lot to thank the Tigers for.

“It’s hard to say who stood out in the final, but I’d give special credit to Sam Costelow [four conversions and two penalties], who gave us those penalties and took the pressure off our shoulders.”

A clinical first half from Tigers saw Costelow, who kicked 14 points in the final, touch down for the opener before Browning’s double.

Stephen Varney, Ethan Hunt, a double from Louis Rees-Zammit and a penalty try dragged Gloucester back into the game to set up a tense finish but Tigers held on.

And Dave Wilks, Tigers academy manager, admits things got a little nervy in the closing stages.

“Credit to Gloucester,” he said. “They put us under a bit of pressure the end of the first half, they got back into the game. Second half they started like a rocket.

“We struggled to keep up with them and for territory. They really came back at us and took the game close.

“Last five minutes was everything a final should be. There was a lot of tension and pressure, we just about came through it. I’m relieved but credit to the lads for sticking at it.”

Wilks heaped praise on his players for coming through the test, as they adapted to the pressure put on them by the Cherry and Whites.

He believes the qualities on show from his players came from their learning during the competition.

Wilks cited challenge such as their 27-24 win over Sale Sharks in January which helped them learn how to grind through close games.

“We’ve been really fortunate this year that we have had some games which mirrored it,” he said.

“We defended for a long period of time playing Sale earlier in the season – that was good preparation for the last three or four minutes.

“You have to learn from the games and what they throw at you – it’s very hard to replicate some of that stuff in training.

“The boys showed fantastic resilience and heart. They backed each other up, some of that you can’t coach or teach.

“You take your learning from games earlier in the season and hopefully it shows on the pitch – they have done that here.”

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