Ellis Genge refused to make Leicester a valiant loser after losing 23-14 to Leinster in the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final at Mattioli Woods Welford Road.
Leinster amassed a 20-0 lead in the interval, and while the Tigers fought back in the second half thanks to tries from Chris Ashton and Nic Dolly, it proved an insurmountable deficit.
Thirteen of the visitors’ starting XVs were Irish internationals and it was on display when the United Rugby Championship leaders beat the side that sit at the top of the Gallagher Premiership.
It exposed the class chasm between English clubs and European heavyweights, but Genge bristled at the suggestion that Leicester were unable to compete.
“We came out there and fought as hard as we could. They have 13 internationals but don’t put in that range of ‘we had a good crack’. We could have won that game,” Genge said.
“Our boys fought the whole game, so I’m not going to come here for anyone to say we’ve come through and we’re brave losers.
“I don’t want to give an excuse and say they had two weeks off and we were knocked out. I would play again now if it meant we got another boost.
“Being centrally contracted, they benefit from being able to rest players as they go. I’m just upset about the missed opportunity.
“I’m gutted because of the difference between the first half and the second half. From 20-0 down to win the second half 14-3 shows where we should have been.
“They are a brilliant team and if you play like that in the first half against a team like that, you are going to be punished.
“It’s hard to win from 20-0. We didn’t stop fighting. We did what we did all year for 40 minutes, I just wish I had done it for 80 minutes .
Leinster now face Toulouse in the semi-final between Europe’s two most successful sides, and director of rugby Leo Cullen insists his tournament favorites can improve.
“We had very good intentions in the first half in attack and defence. We put the Tigers under good pressure when they had the ball,” Cullen said.
“In the second half they threw the kitchen sink at us. It was not comfortable in the second half from our perspective but we are delighted to get a win.
“There was a bit of a risk because some of our guys haven’t played in the last couple of weeks and if they were going to be a bit coy about this seasoned play.
“But we’ve moved on to the next round and hopefully we’ll be in better shape for next weekend. We are going to be better.
“It’s a big challenge against Toulouse, five-time champion. Hopefully we’ll have a big crowd at the Aviva.
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