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'They keep finding a way' - Borthwick reacts to Leicester cliffhanger victory

By PA
Nemani Nadolo on the charge /PA

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Leicester boss Steve Borthwick lavished praise on his players for their “fight” and “spirit” after the unbeaten Gallagher Premiership leaders edged out Bristol 28-26 in an Ashton Gate thriller.

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Tigers’ first league defeat since they lost to Bristol in June looked highly probable as their opponents led in added time.

But Leicester dug deep to conjure a try for substitute Guy Porter with the clock four minutes into the red and Bristol were sunk in front of a 20,000 crowd.

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Tigers became the first team since Harlequins in 2011-12 to start a campaign with 10 successive Premiership victories.

“The spirit of the players and their fight was outstanding,” head coach Borthwick said.

“We made errors in the game and weren’t perfect but one thing that is unquestionable about these guys is their fight. Whatever gets thrown at them, they keep finding a way to overcome it and that is credit to them.

“It didn’t matter what situation the players found themselves in in that game, they found a way through it.

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“There are things we will do a lot better and we will fix some things but the way the players thought through the game was outstanding.

“The supporters have a lot of pride in this team and I am delighted for them that we can bring them some joy. We will enjoy this game and then get on with next weekend.”

Ultimately, Tigers skipper Ellis Genge was not to be denied victory over his hometown club prior to joining them next summer.

It was a sometimes frustrating afternoon for Genge, who became involved in a second-half skirmish with Bristol prop and his England front-row colleague Kyle Sinckler.

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But Porter, wing Nemani Nadolo and hooker Julian Montoya scored tries for the Tigers, with fly-half George Ford adding three penalties and two conversions.

Bristol, meanwhile, posted touchdowns from number eight Fitz Harding and wing Ioan Lloyd, while fly-half Callum Sheedy kicked 16 points.

Borthwick added: “There are always things you want to do better but I really enjoy seeing the players go out there and fight as hard as they can. They show what it means and I enjoy that.”

For Bristol, it was their seventh league defeat of a campaign which sees them remain in the bottom three.

Reflecting on a crushing late reversal, Bristol rugby director Pat Lam said: “I have been in a few of those before.

“I have been on both sides and I feel for the players and I feel for the supporters because it was a great game.

“I said before the game it would be like a Test match and up until the last play we were going pretty well.

“We had five minutes to go and we had moments there to finish the game off and cap off a very, very good performance. It wasn’t to be.

“You have got to give credit to Leicester. They are having a great season and are top of the league.

“It doesn’t take away from what we did because of the effort but it is hard because of the result. Most of the game, the boys stuck to the script.

“There was a lot of excitement and energy and the boys brought all of it. Unfortunately, when we scored, we conceded. We had opportunities to finish it off but we didn’t.”

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