Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill paid tribute to outgoing Toby Flood after the defending champions secured their place in the Aviva Premiership playoffs with a 42-22 win at Sale.
The Tigers were in fine form and crossed for five straight tries, two of which came from Flood.
The Sharks then hit back with three successive late tries before David Mele scored in the final play of the match to cap off a resounding victory.
Cockerhill was quick to praise Flood, saying: “He was great for at 12. I was really happy with him.
“He did some good things out there for us and his attitude was great. Over the last few weeks it’s been a bit of a difficult time for him but I thought that he showed how good his attitude was today and we were really pleased with him.”
Cockerill was also delighted that his side managed to secure their place in the top four but admitted he does not wish the season to end there.
“It’s nice that we’ve got to this point but we want to win it. I know everyone’s sitting back and saying we’re in a semi-final and that’s okay considering the problems we’ve had – but that’s not what we’re about.
“We’re going to have to go away unless something horrible happens to Saints and we’ve got to get it right next week as well. We want to still win this and we still think that we can win it and that we’re good enough.
“We are still the champions at this point and we haven’t been as good as we could have been at some points this year – but we’ve given ourselves a fighting chance.”
Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond slammed the performance of the referee but did not use that as an excuse for the defeat.
He said: “I was disappointed with the ref and some of his decisions in the scrum. In the first half he was outrageous.
“I don’t like to blame the referees because sometimes they get it right or get it wrong and he isn’t the reason we’ve lost – but there were two decisions in the first half where he was horrendously wrong.”
Speaking about the match, Diamond added: “I thought that we were beaten by the better side overall.
“In the first half they deserved to be in front. They scored two good tries, they worked our line speed out and chipped over it so there are no complaints really.
“I thought we had a disastrous start to the second half and we then came back in the last 20 minutes, so we’re disappointed.
“There was something missing. We’ve probably ended the season psychologically a few weeks – even though we don’t admit that to each other.
“Overall, we probably climbed the mountain a few weeks ago against Northampton, Bath and Exeter and it’s very difficult to motivate yourself after that.”
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