London Irish have just one more chance to build on their London Double Header victory over Harlequins, before the Aviva Premiership takes a back seat for two weeks for the start of the European Rugby Challenge Cup.
The Exiles welcome Leicester Tigers to the Madejski Stadium on Sunday on the back of four straight losses, and will be desperate to get something out of the game to lift spirits, which have been dented since their Twickenham win over Quins.
That win raised expectations, perhaps unrealistically so, and the harsh nature of the Premiership was outlined by comprehensive defeats to Exeter Chiefs, Sale Sharks, Northampton Saints, and last weekend to Newcastle Falcons.
The Exiles struck first at Kingston Park through an early Tommy Bell penalty, before 24 unanswered points gave the Falcons a 24-3 lead at the break.
The home side had the bonus-point in the bag by the 60-minute mark, with Irish rallying late on with tries from Conor Gilsenan and Tom Fowlie, which brought them within touching distance of a losing bonus-point, but they couldn’t find another try in the ten minutes that remained.
“It was another frustrating start for us, missed tackles resulted in two tries again, but I was pleased with the effort and the way we came out in the second half,” said London Irish director of rugby Nick Kennedy.
“We stuck to our game plan, we looked after the ball better and we could have had three tries in the second half.
“I’m pleased with the boys’ effort; it was our fourth week in a row that we’ve given ourselves a mountain to climb.
“We had a slightly better start but let them into it with some missed tackles – you have to give them credit, Dave Walder has done a brilliant job here with their attack.
“We’re all very positive guys so we’ll stay positive, we’ll take a lot of positives from the second half. We need to be more clinical and keep working on our defence.”
Despite the loss, the Exiles remain in eleventh place in the Premiership table, four points above Worcester Warriors, whose director of rugby Gary Gold has announced he will be leaving the club at the end of the season to take up the position of head coach of the USA.
There was some good news for Irish with exciting wing Joe Cokanasiga signing a new four-year deal with the club.
The 19-year-old was named in Eddie Jones’ England squad for the summer tour to Argentina after helping the Exiles make an immediate return to the Aviva Premiership, including a sensational solo effort on his debut against London Scottish.
Kennedy said: “As a club, we’re delighted that Joe wants to be part of the London Irish’s long-term future and his decision to re-sign is a massive boost for the club as we continue to create a pathway for our brightest talents.”
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It was a case of Déjà vu for London Irish and its director of rugby Nick Kennedy, as the Exiles were blown away by Northampton Saints 40-25.