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'I probably can't think of a more disappointing finish to be honest'

By PA
Bundee Aki /PA

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Leicester Tigers head coach Steve Borthwick praised his side’s character after they rescued a 29-28 Heineken Champions Cup victory over Connacht with a try in the last play of the game.

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The Gallagher Premiership leaders trailed 28-10 midway through the second half but Kini Murimurivalu’s second try and further scores from replacements Charlie Clare and Hosea Saumaki, who scored a dramatic last-minute winner, booked their place in the last 16.

“Delighted, obviously, with the win and really pleased with the players,” admitted Borthwick, whose side bounced back from losing for the first time this season to Wasps last Sunday.

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“We might not have scored at the end but either way, I would have been proud and I would have thanked the players for their efforts.

“I thought we started the game well and finished the game well. The period in the middle, Connacht controlled. I thought Connacht were superb through that period.

“They put us under immense pressure and we conceded too many penalties, but the reason we conceded the penalties was because of the pressure Connacht put on us.

“From our point of view, this will be a great experience for us. I think coming and playing rugby here is unique. A special mention to the Connacht supporters.

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“It’s a shame it wasn’t able to be a full, packed house (due to Covid-19 restrictions). The supporters were incredible. Passionate and respectful.

“We don’t want to be 18 points down, but the character of the players and spirit is incredible. There’s lots for us to improve upon, but to have that spirit is a real asset for us.

“We want to be proud of our performance and we want to make our supporters proud of our performance and I think our supporters back home will be proud of our team tonight.”

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Joe Heyes scored Leicester’s first try while Connacht picked up two match points – a try-scoring bonus thanks to touchdowns from Tiernan O’Halloran (two), Kieran Marmion and Cian Prendergast and a losing bonus point – but will rue their game management as they let a commanding lead slip.

Asked about the deflating finish as Saumaki stunned them in the left corner, Connacht boss Andy Friend said: “I probably can’t think of a more disappointing one to be honest. Oh so close, but not the win. It’s very disappointing.

“We showed our character, we rallied, we came back from 10 points down to be up 14-10 at half-time. We came out after the break to get two very good scores to be up by 18 points.

“You must pay compliments to Leicester, they never give up. They kept coming. We made too many errors and stopped playing, trying to protect the lead.

“We just talked it about it in the shed, the reason we got the lead was because we played the brand of footie we’d been training all year. In that respect, it is a tough one to take.”

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