'Far from perfect but what was perfect was our desire'
Leicester head coach Richard Wigglesworth hailed his side’s desire and fighting spirit after they became the first team to qualify for the Heineken Champions Cup last 16 with a superb 44-29 win over Clermont Auvergne at Stade Marcel-Michelin.
Scotland centre Matt Scott scored two of Leicester’s five tries in the bonus-point win that took them to the top of Pool B as they made it three out of three and completed the double over Clermont. It was a victory that provided new boss Wigglesworth with his first European success at a ground where he was a replacement when the Tigers triumphed 29-10 last year to reach the quarter-finals.
“I spoke to the players about coming here last year and winning, and how brilliant that was, but I think this certainly tops that,” said Wigglesworth. “I felt there was a performance coming from the side and we started brilliantly. There was a great energy about us, and it snowballed from there.
“We fought and scrapped for everything. We were far from perfect but what was perfect was our desire. We weren’t favourites to win it and the margin of victory is irrelevant because it could easily have gone the other way.
“We did it tough because we have had a really small squad, but the lads have fought hard, and they deserve knock-out rugby.”
The game saw Tigers skipper Ben Youngs make his 74th Champions Cup appearance to match Geordan Murphy’s club record and the result leaves them one win away from clinching a high enough spot to claim a home draw in the quarter-finals if they get through. They face the Ospreys on Friday at Welford Road.
“This is a very special memory for this group after a tough couple of weeks in which we’ve been on the end of some big scorelines,” said two-try hero Scott. “It was still not perfect because we conceded 29 points and that made it difficult, and their crowd got up. We stuck in there and survived a bit of a tidal wave of momentum from them.
“Not many teams get to come here and win, so that makes it very special for us. It is a competition in which we want to do well in. We have got a tough game against Ospreys next week, but we’ve already qualified. The boys have done a fantastic job in this tournament.
“I was lucky that things fell for me for both tries and the move that led to the second try was one we had got six or seven times in the match. We couldn’t do it before the score because the forwards were doing so well, and we never got to see the ball. It was just one of those training ground moves that came off.”
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