Leicester Tigers 10-9 London Irish, Guinness Premiership Final
Tigers determined to raise their game
May 16, 2009
Leicester skipper Geordan Murphy produced a man of the match performance in the season finale at Twickenham © Getty Images
Leicester Tigers boss Richard Cockerill insists his side must improve if they are to best Leinster in next weekend's Heineken Cup Final.
Fresh from a far from impressive 10-9 victory over London Irish in the Guinness Premiership Final at Twickenham, Cockerill declared his side worthy Premiership champions but admitted they must improve significantly if they are to claim their second successive trophy.
"Our performance was poor. We didn't play well but stuck to our task," he said. "We could easily have lost - you can't deny that - but we did enough to win.
"Over the balance of the year we deserve to be champions. I'm pleased the win because the pressure was on. If we had lost then we would have faced double the pressure next week.
"We would have choked it again because today was only our third win in eight finals. So we'll enjoy tonight. We'll have a couple of beers and enjoy the moment because it's important the guys do that.
"But on Monday morning we'll sit and watch the video and have a few harsh words because the performance wasn't good enough. If we play like that we won't beat Leinster. They're probably a better side than Irish with more world-class players."
Crane powered over for the decisive try in the 63rd minute but there were few other highlights in a dismal encounter that muted the 81,600 capacity crowd at Twickenham. But the victory completed a remarkable season for Cockerill who only took charge in January when predecessor Heyneke Meyer left the club on compassionate grounds.
"The team has been fantastic. This is about the club and players. Every club is about the players and supporters, not the coach," said Cockerill. "I've contributed a small percentage but the players have done it out on the pitch. They deserve the credit."
Irish director of rugby Toby Booth felt Leicester's big-game experience - they were competing in their fifth successive Premiership final - proved decisive.
"You don't want to come second and for long spells we were the superior side but you have to capitalise on what you create," Booth said. "We paid the price for that and lost by the narrowest of margins. Leicester are street-wise because they've been there or thereabouts for a while.
"If you want to beat Leicester you have to be street-wise. But we only lost by a point ultimately."
A turning point in the match came five minutes before half-time when Irish won a series of five-metre scrums. Leicester were under heavy pressure with No.8 Jordan Crane sent to the sin bin, but crucially the Exiles failed to score before the half-time whistle went.
Booth refused to condemn the decision to go for the kill when penalty points were on offer.
"I back the players to make the decisions on the pitch. We had their scrum on toast and someone went to the bin," he said. "We had to go on momentum. We should have been out of sight anyway with the penalties we had missed up until then."
Man of the match Geordan Murphy also believes the Tigers must raise their game dramatically if they are to repeat today's Premiership triumph with victory at Murrayfield next weekend.
"I did think we made it pretty tough on ourselves," he told Sky Sports. "The boys worked really hard. It was a great try from Jordy at a nice time, but I think we will need more than that next week. It's a massive game. I think we are going to have to improve our game tenfold next week."