Round-up: Cockerill issues warning as Tigers clinch top spot

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The Independent Online

The Leicester coach, Richard Cockerill, told his players to keep their focus after they ensured they would finish top of the Guinness Premiership table with a comfortable 40-22 win over Harlequins at Welford Road on Saturday.

Leicester's complacency before the interval allowed Quins a 17-16 lead at half-time despite the home side having dominated play in terms of territory, but they stormed back to claim victory in the second half.

Cockerill said: "It's very pleasing to finish top of the table. It is a relentless tournament but we haven't won anything yet so we have to keep focused."

Cockerill was unimpressed with the first-half performance: "We kicked poorly, dropped off tackles and they had quality in their back three to take advantage. I'm disappointed that we conceded three tries."

Despite the heavy defeat, Quins director of rugby Conor O'Shea was upbeat, though he felt his side were on the wrong end of several decisions: "I thought we were magnificent and if we can continue to play with that intensity we will finish in the top four next season. At 10-0 down we didn't throw in the towel and the loss of [Chris] Robshaw to the sin-bin was crucial. Before he went in we were 17-16 up and then we lost by 18 points."

Toby Booth insists London Irish will battle right to the end of the season, despite his team's play-off ambitions virtually disappearing. A 34-20 defeat at Gloucester on Saturday means Irish, last season's beaten Premiership finalists, have little chance now of securing a top-four finish.

"Obviously, you want to be in the play-offs," Booth, the Irish head coach, said. "If you want to be a consistent top-four team, as we do, you have to deal with the expectation. But we have played poorly at times and not got the results we needed."

Irish, beaten at home by lowly Leeds Carnegie last weekend, were blown away during the first-half when Gloucester cruised into a 27-3 lead.

Wings Lesley Vainikolo and James Simpson-Daniel scored tries, while substitute prop Alasdair Dickinson added a late touchdown and fly-half Nicky Robinson contributed 19 points.

Although Irish claimed second-half tries from forwards Kieran Roche, Steffon Armitage and Dan Murphy, they were beaten more convincingly than the final score suggests. Irish were twice reduced to 14 men, with Murphy and wing Delon Armitage receiving yellow cards, and the margin of defeat equalled their heaviest loss in all competitions this season.

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