London Irish director of rugby Nick Kennedy praised his side’s heart after the Exiles battled back against Leicester Tigers to earn what could prove an invaluable bonus-point in the final shake-up.
Irish trailed the Tigers 14-3 at half-time and by 28- 13 when Jonny May crossed in the 61st minute at the Madejski Stadium, but David Paice’s try brought the home side within range of a losing bonus-point which Alex Lewington delivered in dramatic fashion from the final play of the game to leave the final score 28-27.
It may have only been a losing bonus-point, but its significance could be wider reaching for London Irish’s Aviva Premiership survival hopes, as they moved five points clear of bottom side Worcester Warriors, who slipped to their sixth straight defeat of the season away at Bath.
With the Exiles having lost their four previous league games without picking up a single point, questions were being asked of the squad and its coaching staff, and Kennedy was justifiably delighted with the spirit and character shown by his side.
“I am proud of the boys, they have massive hearts and they are fighters,” he said. “I’m pleased with the effort and the way we came back.
“They are fighting to the 83rd minute and at the end of games they’ve been very strong which is excellent. We need to stop giving ourselves those mountains to climb.”
For the fifth consecutive game the Exiles suffered from a low start, as Nick Malouf touched down for the Tigers in just the second minute. And three George Ford penalties made it 14-0 to the visitors after 26 minutes.
It’s a problem the Exiles have so far been unable to solve, as the Premiership takes a back seat for the next two weeks with the focus shifting to European competition.
“I knew it would be very hard, but I didn’t know it would play out like it has so far,” added Kennedy. “We talk about improving things as a team and that was slightly better.
“It’s disappointing; we know we need to get better in the first half and we need to get better in our defence. When we had the ball we weren’t clinical enough.”