Ellis Genge refused to cast Leicester as gallant losers following their 23-14 defeat by Leinster in the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final at Mattioli Woods Welford Road and was unhappy with suggestions his team could not compete.
Leinster amassed a 20-0 interval lead, and while Tigers fought back in the second half through tries by Chris Ashton and Nic Dolly, it proved an insurmountable deficit. Thirteen of the visitors’ starting XV were Ireland internationals and it showed as the leaders of the United Rugby Championship thumped the team that sits at the summit of the Gallagher Premiership.
It exposed the gulf in class between English clubs and Europe’s heavyweights, but Genge bristled at the suggestion Leicester were unable to compete against a Leinster starting line-up which boasted 13 internationals.
“I am not trying to be a p***k here but I don’t want you saying that,” Genge said in the press room, with a reported look of daggers to go with it. “We came out there and we fought as hard as we could. They have 13 internationals but don’t put us in that bracket of we gave it a good crack. We could have won that game. I think you know that as well.
“If anyone is going to say that to me, please don’t because it is going to wind me right up. Our boys fought all game so I am not going to come here for someone to say we gave it a good crack and we’re plucky losers.
“I don’t want to give an excuse and say they had two weeks off and we were knackered. I would play again now if it meant we had another crack of the whip. Being centrally contracted, they benefit from being able to rest players as and when. I’m just upset at the missed opportunity.
“I’m gutted because of the difference from the first half to the second half. From 20-0 down to win the second half 14-3 shows where we should have been at. They are a brilliant side and if you play like that in the first half against a team like that then you are going to get punished. It’s hard to win from 20-0 down. We did not stop fighting. We did what we did all year for 40 minutes, I just wish we had done it for 80 minutes.”
Leinster now face Toulouse in a semi-final between the two most successful sides in Europe, and director of rugby Leo Cullen insists there is scope for his tournament favourites to improve.
“We had really good intent in the first half in attack and in defence. We put Tigers under a fair bit of pressure when they had the ball,” Cullen said. “In the second half they threw the kitchen sink at us. It didn’t feel comfortable in the second half from our point of view but we’re delighted to get a win.
“There was a bit of risk because some of our guys haven’t played for the last couple of weeks and were they going to be a little shy in terms of that battle hardened piece. But we’ve got through to the next round and hopefully we’ll be in better shape going into next weekend. We’re going to be better. It’s such a massive challenge up against Toulouse, five times champions. Hopefully we’ll have a big crowd at the Aviva.”