Richard Cockerill salutes Manu Tuilagi after powerhouse display in derby victory
Richard Cockerill says he has never seen Manu Tuilagi play better than his performance in the 36-8 rout of Northampton.
Last Updated: 01/04/13 2:08pm
It was the seventh East Midlands derby win in a row for Leicester as they cemented second spot in the Aviva Premiership table.
Tuilagi scored twice with Northampton - who are fourth and only ahead of Gloucester because they have one more win - simply unable to handle the England centre's raw power.
"It helps when you are on the front foot, which we were for most of the game, but I thought that was probably the best Manu has played for us," said Tigers boss Cockerill.
"Saints defend very tight and slide and if they don't get it right you can expose them. I thought we did it very well. Anthony Allen was outstanding and Manu played very well for us today.
"Across the board everybody's performance was good. I think that second half performance was outstanding. Our attitude was good, we wanted to come here and play.
"It was a massive game for both sides, we wanted to meet fire with fire at the scrum and lineout, keep them on the back foot, and be as positive as we could be. If you can stop Saints at set-piece they struggle to get rhythm into their game and that was the case.
"We spent all Tuesday morning brawling against each other doing line-out drive defence and I think the turning point was when they didn't score from those lineout drives in the second half, psychologically they were done for then. If you stop that it takes a big part of Saints' game away.
"Tom Croft had a disappointing afternoon in Cardiff, but I think he just needs rugby. He was outstanding today and by the time the Lions tour comes around he will probably be peaking - he is world class."
Northampton boss Jim Mallinder was unhappy with his defence, which conceded four tries.
"We were well beaten and defensively it was very poor," said Mallinder. "We were a little bit soft in defence, we held off them and it was a long second half.
"We didn't defend as a team and our defensive system broke down, we conceded a lot of territory out wide. It is a big blow for us; we had a chance to put ourselves right up there.
"It is a major blow to lose like that at home. But we are still in fourth position with three games to go. If we get into the semi-finals and if we play away from home it is probably where our best rugby has been played this season."