Leeds 9-15 Leicester, Aviva Premiership, February 13
Cockerill satisfied with squad strength
February 13, 2011
Leicester centre Anthony Allen takes on two Leeds tacklers, Leeds v Leicester, Aviva Premiership, Headingley, Leeds, England, February 13, 2011
Anthony Allen takes on two defenders during Leicester's victory over Leeds © Getty Images

Leicester Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill paid tribute to the depth of his squad as they strengthened their lead at the top of the Aviva Premiership with a hard-fought win at bottom club Leeds.

Brothers Manu and Alesana Tuilagi scored tries either side of half-time and Jeremy Staunton kicked five points as Leicester hung to win 15-9 against Carnegie.

Adrian Jarvis kicked nine points as Leeds claimed what could be a vital bonus point in their battle to avoid the drop, but Cockerill - whose side were shorn of seven Six Nations internationals and another seven through injury - said: "With the guys missing - we had about 14 overall - it's a day to get the win and with the results yesterday it was really important.

"Just because it was Leeds, those points are just as important. Not many other teams would have come here and been able to cope with that many absentees."

The game was played in driving rain that levelled the playing field for the division's bottom club and Cockerill said: "We looked at the weather, we hoped it wouldn't be raining, but unfortunately it was. We made a really good start and got good early points, but sometimes our attempts to play worked against us.

"We tried to play but with the weather conditions and the pitch deteriorating, it was hard. Leeds stuck to their task and really took it to us and with five minutes to go they were camped on our line. If they keep playing like that they'll cause teams problems. Sides will come here and struggle if they play like that."

On 19-year-old Manu Tuilagi, who as a Saxon is being talked about as a potential England centre, Cockerill added: "Manu's a bit naive in defence at times but we need to allow him to mature at his own pace. Having the Saxons experience will help him, and he's better learning lessons at club level and he's at the right level for where he is.

"His physicality is as good as anyone's, but his decision-making is not there yet because he's only 19. It's good for Alesana because he takes more responsibility with his little brother on the pitch."

Neil Back, the former Tigers stalwart now head coach at Leeds, said: "We are bitterly disappointed, we started the first half poorly and gave them too much respect. We can't do that against the top sides and that was the main topic of conversation at half-time.

"We performed much better in the second half and it was an outstanding tackle to stop Luther Burrell scoring late on, but with a scrum deep in their territory we should be coming away with points."

Leeds have two games against Newcastle which will go a long way to deciding their fate but Back is not looking too far ahead.

He said: "We are now focussing on Saracens next week, 10 Premiership games, 50 points to be grabbed. That's enough to continue our status in the Premiership and if we keep playing like that we'll get enough points to stay in the Premiership."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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