The atmosphere during the last ten minutes of our win over Toulouse at Welford Road was the best I have ever heard during my six years at the club.
When Toby Flood was sent to the sin-bin on 68 minutes, the place just went off. The noise was incredible. The 24,000 people there knew just how big the next ten minutes were in the context of our season.
At 9-5 up with a man down, everything was on the line and we gritted it out and hung in there. It was an awesome feeling at the final whistle – quickly followed by a chilling cold that had most of us shivering before we reached the changing room. It was bitter out there in the snow and, mercifully, we were allowed a hot bath instead of the usual ice bath.
The majority of the Toulouse players just ran inside without shaking hands which was weird. There was no particular needle during the game so why they chucked their toys out of the pram, I have no idea. I guess they are not used to losing. Oh well – who cares.
It was a strange game to play in. I came off the bench early on when Steve Mafi got injured and we built up a 9-0 lead by half-time. If we had scored again after the break, I am convinced we would have won comfortably because I thought we were more mentally prepared for the battle than they were.
But we gave away a soft try and they were in it, right up to the whistle.
Having to defend a five-metre line-out with 90 seconds left was pretty nerve-wracking but we did it. With the amount of close finishes we have had in the last six weeks, I think all Leicester Tigers fans should go and get their hearts checked at the doctors – it can’t be good for them!
Sunday showed that games are not necessarily won with the best players who can produce the flashiest moves but by the side who can adapt to the conditions and pressures of the day.
We have failed to do that in our last two Premiership finals but we got it right against Toulouse.
Getting Toulon in the quarters means that we will have to turn up on top of our game to have a chance of winning. If you are going to win the Heineken Cup, you have to beat some big sides, so we will go there knowing it is a big ask but I feel we have the players to get the result.
I’ve been with the England Saxons for a day or so as I write this ahead of our game in Ireland on Friday night.
It’s brilliant to get back in the national set-up and there are some good lads down here to work with.
It’s been an awesome few days.
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