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'You would've thought there was no chance... But that's what we've done'

By PA
Steve Borthwick /PA

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Steve Borthwick hailed his Leicester Tigers side for defying expectations after they completed the job against Clermont Auvergne with a 27-17 win to reach the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals.

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Leading 29-10 from the first leg, tries from Hanro Liebenberg, Matt Scott and Freddie Steward – as well as a penalty try – ensured the hosts were never in danger at Mattioli Woods Welford Road.

Clermont also crossed twice in the second half through Alivereti Raka and Fritz Lee, but they were nothing more than consolation scores despite Tigers having Ollie Chessum sent off.

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And after watching his side cruise into the last eight with a 56-27 aggregate win, Borthwick admitted no one would have predicted such a result at the start of the season.

“It’s a great result, isn’t it? Who would’ve thought we’d beat Clermont,” he said.

“We had two games and we won two games. If you look back at the start of the season, who would’ve thought Leicester Tigers would be European Champions Cup quarter-finalists.

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“You would’ve thought there was no chance of that. But that’s what we’ve done. The players deserve enormous credit for what they’ve done.

“I thought at half-time there were some things we needed to do better in the second half. I thought the players did that very well.”

On man-of-the-match Harry Potter, Borthwick added: “He’s done a good job for us. He’s played on the left wing for us before and there was plenty of players who really fought out there exceptionally hard.

“I thought the impact of the players coming on to the pitch was also very good.”

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Tigers are through to the Champions Cup quarter-finals for the first time since 2016 and Clermont head coach Jono Gibbes felt his side were always fighting a losing battle after the first leg.

He said: “The total aggregate, obviously there’s a difference between them and us.

“I thought through the two games we had opportunities and maybe the differential could’ve been a little bit different if we’d taken our opportunities last week.

“But, ultimately, we need to start working on bridging the gap between where we are and where we want to get to. Today was a great experience for us.

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“I think they’re just a little bit more efficient in how they do things. Even in the way they exit, they can shift the point, one pass, chase lines already in place.

“It was important for us to have a response. They scored five tries, three off set-piece, two off high-balls, at our home ground last week.

“No matter which stage of the evolution teams are in, for us that’s pretty hard to ship 29 points at home. So there was a response demanded and I thought the guys turned up.”

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