London Irish head coach Tom Coventry admits he could not fault the effort of his players after picking up a losing bonus point at home to Exeter Chiefs in the Aviva Premiership on Sunday.

Whilst Coventry was disappointed with the result, the New Zealander took the positives from an otherwise spirited display against a Chiefs side looking to challenge for the Premiership crown.     

“We started so well and we had an attitude that I thought would be good enough to beat Exeter,” Coventry told the assembled media.

“I’m obviously gutted with the result, but we haven’t picked up any bonus points this season, so it’s pleasing to pick up a point against Exeter,” added Coventry.

Topsy Ojo’s length-of-the-field try, Elliot Stooke’s debut and the impressive performance of Theo Brophy Clews were encouraging signs for the Exiles. Coventry reserved special praise for 18-year-old fly-half Brophy Clews, who underlined a maturity beyond his years, saying: “Theo played really well for us, and for a very young boy he has a very mature head and I thought he controlled the game well.

“He’s got a nice relationship with Jonny and I thought they worked well today. We also had Elliott Stooke who played his first game, and I thought he did a pretty good job too – he brought a real physicality to our defensive line and drives and it was good to have him on the field.”

Irish had to play a quarter of the game a man light after David Paice and Ian Nagle were yellow-carded in either half.

Coventry said: “Losing players to the sin-bin is like losing players to injury – if you have injuries to key players in your squad it can put significant stress on your side. The team felt the pressure when we lost a player, but like I said, when you’re having a hard time you tend not to get the rub of the green.

“In the second period we spent no time in their half, and that was probably why we had to try and suffocate their play. Defence was certainly our focus as we know that they use the ball well, but the fact that we were unable to take our opportunities was key.”

Leicester Tigers away now beckons for the Exiles next weekend, with Coventry keen to register a victory on the road.

“We know that we need to win away from home and we need to do it quickly, and just worry about the next game without thinking about what Worcester and Newcastle are doing,” said Coventry.

“We can only help ourselves by doing what we need to do. Regardless of where you are in the league, anyone can beat anyone in this competition. Exeter would have thought they could have grabbed a try bonus point win, but we scrapped and pushed them all the way. It’s such a long year and you rely heavily on your squad week in, week out,” he added. 

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