London Irish keep survival hopes alive with crucial win over Gloucester
London Irish kept their hopes of remaining in the Aviva Premiership alive with a battling 23-18 win over Gloucester to cut the gap to 11th-placed Newcastle Falcons down to five points.
Blair Cowan's late try and the boot of Greig Tonks sealed a victory at the Madejski Stadium that could prove vital in the final reckoning for Tom Coventry's side.
Winless since February and having conceded 98 points in their previous three outings, the Exiles nonetheless entered the game with confidence after a good performance against table-toppers Saracens in New Jersey last weekend.
The visitors thought they had broken the deadlock after seven minutes, when Tom Marshall ran onto a canny Henry Trinder kick and fed Callum Braley, whose excellent hand-off allowed captain Billy Twelvetrees to score.
But the try was chalked off by the TMO for offside and the home side made the most of their reprieve.
The Exiles scored shortly afterwards, Halani Aulika muscling the ball over the line from a metre out following a jinking run from Topsy Ojo with 10 minutes played.
James Hook put Gloucester on the board with a penalty two minutes later, before Tonks re-established the Exiles' seven-point cushion when Gloucester were penalised for not rolling away.
Hook had an opportunity to cut the deficit on 22 minutes, when Alex Lewington was adjudged to have strayed offside, but his kick from distance went narrowly wide.
After a period of concerted pressure inside the Gloucester 22, Irish won a deserved penalty when Gloucester collapsed the scrum, but Tonks missed from short range.
Marshall was shown a yellow card on 29 minutes for the Cherry & Whites, but Gloucester scored a try against the run of play, Lewis Ludlow bundling the ball over the line, with Hook adding the conversion to make it level at the break.
The hosts regained the lead on 51 minutes, when Gloucester were penalised for a breakdown at the scrum and Tonks slotted home.
But Gloucester levelled it up almost immediately, with Hook kicking his second penalty of the day, after the Exiles conceded a penalty under pressure in front of the posts.
And the visitors took the lead for the first time in the contest on 56 minutes, when Trinder snuck inside the touchline down the left, having done well to chase down Hook's kick and keep himself in play, before Hook missed a difficult conversion.
Irish came back strongly though and penned Gloucester deep inside their own 22 with a succession of scrum penalties on the five-metre line in front of the posts, with Yann Thomas being shown a yellow card on 67 minutes.
Tom Savage was also shown a yellow card with 10 minutes to play, leaving Gloucester to defend a five-point lead with just 13 men.
And Irish made the most of their numerical advantage when Cowan touched down following a good maul from the Exiles, with Tonks coolly converting to give the hosts the lead once more at 20-18.
And closing out the game was made even easier when Tonks scored a penalty under considerable pressure on 76 minutes to leave the visitors needing a try that they could not muster.