Rassie Erasmus highlights battle of breakdown as key to Leicester win
‘They were really desperate and they deserved to win the game’
Munster’s Niall Scannell scores a try in the Champions Cup clash against Leicester at Welford Road. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Munster coach Rassie Erasmus was generous in defeat both in acknowledging the performance of the Leicester Tigers at Welford Road and accepting that the home side had just about deserved the 18-16 victory.
He knew, as did his players, exactly what to expect at Welford Road, the ferocity of the Tigers to try and atone for their 38-0 drubbing at Thomond Park last week and also to defend a record of having never lost back-to-back matches in rounds three and four of European competition.
“A backlash? We feared that would be the case. It was a Leicester team that was playing for survival; they were really desperate and they deserved to win the game.
“Even if that kick didn’t go over, I feel, overall, they played better than us on the day. I thought it was a good match. At the end of the day, I thought they deserved to win.”
When asked if the home pack had en edge he pointed to the breakdown as an area in which his team came second best. “Yes, I think so. I wouldn’t just say in the forward battle. They got stuck into us at the breakdown and at mauling time, I thought we had the number on them.
“The scrums: they had the upper hand then we had the upper hand. So, I wouldn’t say the forward battle but the breakdown battle, they did a number on us.”
Erasmus is satisfied that the team are moving in the right direction, making appreciable strides when weighed against last year’s performance in the Champions Cup.
“I’ve said it a few times now, it’s the same team that lost here last year against Leicester at home and away; we’re the same team and we’ll keep growing and along the way. We’ll lose matches like this and others we’ll win.
“All of a sudden, we’re not this invincible team that can go all the way and win away to Leicester you know? We knew all the week it was always going to be a really tough match.
“’It’s exciting. From my side, it’s nerve-wracking but’s exciting. It’s a pool where at the beginning, everyone was saying, ‘we’re going to be the easy game,’ in the pool after the way we played last year.
“I think we’re growing into a steady and a solid team. We’ve got a way to go. All of a sudden, a team doesn’t become unbeatable. So, yeah, it’s a very tight pool currently. We’ve got a game in hand but there are two away games coming so it’s tough to go forward.”
He also pointed to the character shown by the team to come back through Niall Scannell’s try. “We were certainly close there but then it was a great kick by Owen (Williams). It deserved to be a penalty at that breakdown. It’s fair play to them.
“Especially after we got the yellow card to Zeebs (Simon Zebo), we grafted it out and then the forwards got a few driving mauls and then to go over at the end there. I’m definitely proud of how we came back. That shows that the team can win important games. They had the guts to come back but then we made a silly error at the end.”
Leicester Tigers coach Richard Cockerill spoke about a cathartic meeting during the week that allowed his players to recalibrate after the humiliation of Thomond Park.
“We went to meeting on Monday and I asked the players to write down one word to describe the performance and most of it was embarrassing. So where do we go from here then fellows? And we worked back from there.
“They are good blokes, they are good players – they didn’t mean to play that shit. Sometimes it happens. It is not all fixed because we won one game with a kick from 55 metres.
“We have still got a lot of work to do on and off the field. That wasn’t a team out there that didn’t want to play, that wasn’t a team that didn’t want to fight for the club. I am not sure that is a team in decline. There are some very good players that will come into that side that are missing.”