Leicester Tigers win sets up tie with big-spending French side
Leicester Tigers made "their own bit of history" after a pulsating 9-5 win over Toulouse yesterday.
The win booked a Heineken Cup quarter-final away to big-spending French side Toulon, in April.
Three penalties from the boot of Toby Flood were enough to see the home side through to the last eight and knock four-times winners Toulouse out of the competition.
It was a superb occasion at a sold-out Welford Road as snow fell throughout the game in sub-zero conditions.
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Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill was full of praise for his charges.
"People speak about the time we beat them here in 1997. Hopefully in 15 years' time, people will be talking about today," said Cockerill.
"I have nothing but praise for the players and they deserve all of the credit. They have made their own little bit of history today.
"These occasions are great and they have not come to us much in the last few years.
"We have topped a really tough group and we have knocked Toulouse out of the competition.
"There is a lot to be said for our attitude of coming back having lost on the first game of the competition at their place.
"Those last two minutes, when it was a grandstand finish and we were defending for our lives to win the game, was what you dream of as a coach and player. It was horrendous to watch at the time though!
"The game was never going to be a spectacle in those conditions.
"They missed some kicks and we gave them a try, but our attitude was to keep working. We made some mistakes and so did they.
"The set-piece was always going to be massive. Once we got a nine-point lead, it was almost better to play without the ball than with it.
"We had a couple of opportunities when we could have scored. They had an off day with the boot and you could say we had a bit of luck.
"But I am delighted for the players. They deserve a lot of credit."
Tigers will travel to face moneybags Toulon on the weekend of April 5-7 in a quarter-final set-up that also includes Saracens and Harlequins.
"We would much rather be at home, but the toughness of our pool means that was not possible," said Cockerill.
"If you are going to win this competition, you are going to have to beat some good sides.
"We have done that today and we are going to have to do that again in the next round.
"Toulon are very strong. We will get through the Test matches that our guys have got to play and then we will re-group. In a one-off game against Toulon, there is no reason why we cannot win."
Cockerill confirmed that late withdrawal Manu Tuilagi was "only 90 per cent fit" before being pulled 20 minutes before the game and that Steve Mafi faced a "six to eight-week lay-off" after pulling his hamstring in the first half.
Chairman Peter Tom praised the efforts of ground staff for getting the game on in the first place after sub-zero temperatures all week.
"It has been terrible weather all week and people have put a lot of work in to get the game on. It was a tremendous effort," he said.