Leicester finish with a flourish but end Champions Cup campaign with a loss

- Advertisement -

Head coach Matt O’Connor denied Leicester Tigers were in crisis after losing their final European Champions Cup pool match at home to Racing 92, their eighth defeat in nine matches in all competitions.
Leicester’s 23-20 defeat means they finished bottom of their pool for the first time in their history and have now failed to reach the knockout stage for three out of the last four years.
The two-time European champions won just one game, at home to Castres, who thrashed the Tigers 39-0 in the return.
O’Connor admitted the run of losses was ‘not the best run’ of his coaching career but insisted there was no crisis at the club.
He said: “I wouldn’t imagine it’s a crisis. There are a few reasons for it and it’s been across a couple of different competitions. The reality is we have to make sure we are better.”
The Tigers, who recalled 13 regulars after the defeat by Castres, produced a battling performance in freezing conditions in front of a sparse crowd, fighting back from 14-0 down after 11 minutes to level the scores at 14-14 seven minutes into the second half.
Scrum-half Maxime Machenaud’s third penalty of the second half in the 76th minute earned Racing 92 victory.
However, the visitors had to survive a dramatic finale when Leicester turned down a penalty which would have earned them a draw, in a bid to go for the win.
O’Connor said: “It was disappointing. We fought our way back into it quite well.
“But against a side as good as Racing, you can’t afford to give them a 14-point start, and it was always going to be difficult to chase that down in those conditions.
“It was hard. The lads were really cold at half-time and they understood the battle was going to be in the second half and, unfortunately, we could not do enough.
“But I thought some of the forwards were outstanding, they put in a huge shift, which is going to be important for us moving forward.
“The performance was more of what we are about. We spoke in the week about making sure everyone delivered, and they did.
“It’s disappointing to lose at home in front of our fans. That hurts a lot but we will use that to drive us through the back end of the Premiership.”
England centre Manu Tuilagi did not play and O’Connor explained: “He trained well but he had a tight calf yesterday and we did not want to risk him, given the run-in and today’s conditions. He should be OK for Gloucester.”
Flanker Brendon O’Connor scored Leicester’s only try, while England fly-half George Ford kicked 15 points.
Machenaud scored 18 points, including a try, for the visitors, while centre Henry Chavancy also crossed the whitewash.
The win puts Racing on 19 points and earns them an all-French quarter-final clash against Clermont Auvergne.
Coach Laurent Labit said: “I am proud of the result because it’s never easy to win away, especially against an English club.
“Leicester did not have anything to win, or lose, except to play for honour. That’s why they did not take that last penalty, they did not want a draw, they wanted a win.
“It’s good for Racing, we are still alive and we hope to win a European title one day.”

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Latest Stories

- Advertisement -

UK News

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Read the latest free supplements

Read the Town Crier, Le Rocher and a whole host of other subjects like mortgage advice, business, cycling, travel and property.