21 February 2016
London Irish picked up a losing bonus point as they succumbed to a 22-15 defeat against a dogged Exeter Chiefs in the Aviva Premiership on Sunday.
The Exiles, who came into the game on the back of three successive wins on home soil, were outdone by the boot of Gareth Steenson – the fly-half kicking 17 of Exeter's 22 points to put themselves back in the hunt for a top four berth.
Meanwhile, head coach Tom Coventry now prepares his charges for next weekend's trip to Leicester Tigers looking to get back to winning ways.
A losing bonus point was no less than the Exiles deserved after putting on a full blooded display against a side harbouring title ambitions.
With a slender 7-6 advantage at the break thanks to Ofisa Treviranus' converted try, Irish were good value for the lead. Treviranus dotted down under the posts with 10 minutes on the clock following Topsy Ojo's scintillating line break. Ojo, who was a shining light for Irish throughout the contest, set the tone with his dash through the heart of Chiefs' defensive line with Treviranus in support for the score. Theo Brophy Clews, another positive for Irish, made no mistake from bang in front to put the hosts 7-0 ahead.
Irish may well feel aggrieved that they did not add to their tally of points for the first half after mustering up a series of attacks, however penalties at the breakdown stopped the Exiles in their tracks.
The radar boot of Steenson chipped away at the scoreboard all afternoon, and his brace of penalties before the break closed the gap to 7-6. Defensively, Irish were resolute as they foiled a string of Chiefs forays into their 22. A scrambling Irish defence prevented Olly Woodburn from racing 80 metres after the fleet-footed winger had intercepted a looping pass. Woodburn was thwarted by a last ditch ankle tap and Irish came away unscathed.
And Irish got their reward for their heroics in defence with 18-year-old hot prospect Brophy Clews increasing the deficit to 10-6 with the boot.
However, back came Rob Baxter's men with a penalty success of their own, replacement scrum-half Dave Lewis scooted through a hole to touchdown. Steenson made no mistake from a tight angle to put Exeter 16-10 in front.
Irish needed a ray of inspiration, and they got it in the shape of Topsy Ojo who shuffled out of a ruck to race the length of the field to cross in the far corner. Brophy Clews was unable to convert from the touchline with Irish now trailing 19-15 with less than 10 minutes remaining.
The men from Sandy Park pushed home their advantage to seal the spoils when Steenson rounded off an impressive day with another penalty success.
London Irish: 15 Andrew Fenby, 14 Topsy Ojo, 13 Fergus Mulchrone, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Ciaran Hearn, 10Theo Brophy Clews, 9 Scott Steele, 1 Tom Smallbone, 2 David Paice, 3 Halani Aulika, 4 Matt Symons, 5 Elliott Stooke, 6 Ofisa Treviranus, 7 Luke Narraway (c), 8 Rob McCusker
Replacements: 16 Gerard Ellis, 17 Tom Court, 18 Leo Halavatau, 19 Ian Nagle, 20 Joe Trayfoot, 21 Darren Allinson, 22 Shane Geraghty, 23 Christian Lewis-Pratt
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Olly Woodburn, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Sam Hill, 11 James Short, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Will Chudley, 1 Ben Moon, 2 Jack Yeandle (c), 3 Moray Lowe, 4 Jonny Hill, 5 Geoff Parling, 6 Don Armand, 7 Julian Salvi, 8 Thomas Waldrom
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Allie Atkins, 20 Kai Horstmann, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Will Hooley, 23 Michele Campagnaro