England duo inspire London Irish
England World Cup players Delon Armitage and Shontayne Hape made a big impact as London Irish overcame Newcastle 39-23 to maintain their interest in the LV=Cup.
England full-back Armitage capped a fine game by scoring a try, while debutant centre Hape's break in the final quarter set up the try which killed off Newcastle's brave challenge.
And Dan Bowden played his part, scoring 13 second-half points after coming off the bench for fly-half Steven Shingler, while Alan Thompstone's second try ensured Irish earned the bonus point.
Newcastle took a deserved early lead when sustained phases inside the Irish 22 sucked in their cover before centre Jamie Helleur was released to sprint over wide on the right. Irish responded within four minutes, driving the ball into the visitors' area where Jonathan Joseph's clever reverse pass armed Thompstone, who powered over the line.
Back came Newcastle, whose pressure squeezed a 23rd minute penalty out of an anxious defence and Jeremy Manning kicked the penalty, but referee Dean Richards adjudged the visitors offside just outside their 22 after 26 minutes and Shingler's penalty flew high between the posts to give Irish the lead for the first time.
And it got worse for Newcastle five minutes later when they were penalised for not releasing in the tackle, presenting Shingler with a bread and butter shot in front of the posts. Irish finished the half on top and Shingler increased their lead with a penalty for a ruck offence on 40 minutes.
Manning struck a post with a drop goal attempt seconds into the second half, then booted a penalty into touch as Newcastle forced the Exiles to defend in depth just feet from their line. They were rewarded on 49 minutes when a succession of phases ended with Greg Goosen scoring close to the post. Manning added the conversion.
He was equally accurate with a penalty in the 53rd minute but Bowden, on for Shingler at half-time, soon despatched his own penalty. That raised the Irish tempo and they scored their second try when Jamie Gibson's break allowed Armitage to do a swan-dive over by the flag. Bowden missed the conversion.
Irish increased their lead on 61 minutes when Bowden boomed home a drop goal from behind a ruck, then Hape marked a solid debut with a powerful break into the heart of the Newcastle defence, breaking tackles before providing a perfect offload which armed Bowden to score between the posts and convert his own try.
Thompstone then reacted fastest to Bowden's kick-through to score his second try of the tie five minutes from time. Joe Graham's try for Newcastle on 80 minutes was merely a consolation.