Gareth Steenson kicks Exeter to victory at relegation-threatened London Irish
Exeter fly-half Gareth Steenson kicked 17 points at the Madejski Stadium to keep London Irish rooted to the bottom of the Aviva Premiership table.
With huge performances from David Paice and Ofisa Treviranus, Irish fought bravely throughout but the 22-15 defeat leaves them five points behind 11th-placed Worcester.
Irish outscored their opponents two tries to one but ill-discipline, they lost Paice and Ian Nagle to yellow cards, allowed Steenson to kick four penalties and a conversion to a try from Dave Lewis.
Topsy Ojo scored a splendid individual try for the home side, Treviranus the other with Theo Brophy-Clews kicking one penalty and a conversion.
Despite losing at Sale last week, Exeter's starting line-up was unchanged but internationals Michele Campagnaro and Tomas Francis returned to be on the bench.
Irish made four changes following last week's heavy defeat at Northampton with forwards Treviranus, Elliott Stooke and Tom Smallbone all restored to the side. In addition 18-year-old Brophy-Clews was selected at fly-half in place of Shane Geraghty, who dropped to the bench.
After a featureless first 10 minutes, the game sprung into life with an excellent try. From a line-out 45 metres out, a well-timed pass from Johnny Williams sent Ojo through a gap in the visitors' defence before the wing sent Treviranus over between the posts.
Brophy-Clews converted but the game continued to be error-ridden and punctuated by frequent penalties as neither side could get any rhythm into their game.
From one of the incessant penalties, this time harshly awarded against Treviranus for a high challenge, Steenson put Chiefs on the scoreboard with a long-range penalty.
Minutes later, Irish suffered a further setback when their captain Matt Symons was forced to leave the field with an injury to be replaced in the second row by Nagle.
Steenson had an opportunity for another three points but declined to take a kickable penalty in favour of an attacking line-out. It proved the wrong choice as the visitors were penalised at the line-out and the pressure was relieved.
With three minutes of the first half remaining, Irish hooker Paice was yellow carded for dragging down a maul for the visitors to capitalise with a second Steenson penalty to leave Exeter trailing 7-6 at the interval.
Four minutes after the restart, Julian Salvi was penalised for tackling Stooke in the air and Brophy-Clews made no mistake with the kick.
Irish received further encouragement when Paice returned from the sin-bin but Exeter picked up the next two scores to take the lead for the first time.
Steenson kicked another penalty before a kicking error from Brophy-Clews presented Exeter with a platform in the home 22. They made it count as recently-introduced replacement Lewis caught the home defence napping to score a crucial try, which Steenson converted.
Francis came on for Exeter as they changed their whole front row and their pack went on to pin Irish in their own half.
Irish continued to make elementary errors and the game looked beyond them when Nagle was yellow carded for a deliberate knock on; Steenson kicked the penalty and Exeter led 19-10 at the end of the third quarter.
Out of nowhere, Irish came back into it when Ojo stole the ball from Ian Whitten to run 85 metres to score but Steenson's last penalty five minutes from time ensured a Chiefs' win.