LONDON Irish began their Championship Cup campaign in imposing fashion by easing to a 35-7 victory at Hartpury RFC.

The home side shot themselves in the foot inside the opening three minutes, Connor Edwards yellow-carded for a late tackle as torrential rain lashed down on the players in the early stages.

Almost immediately Exiles went in front, their trademark driving maul again working to good effect as Australian international hooker Saia Fainga'a crashed over from close range. Stephen Myler landed a testing touchline conversion to put his side 7-0 up after four minutes.

The home side hit back, however, and levelled matters at the start of the second quarter.

Scrum-half Harry Cochrane managed to out-sprint Napolioni Nalaga to a loose ball, and after hacking further ahead, he collected the ball to dot down. Sam Leeming added the extras to make it 7-7.

Declan Kidney's men rallied, though, and restored their lead just after the half-hour mark with an almost carbon copy of their opening score.

Another powerful maul proved impossible for Hartpury to stop, and Fainga'a had the simple task of placing the ball over the line. The imperious Myler again made no mistake with another testing conversion, and his side then added a pivotal score on the stroke of half-time.

Scrum-half and captain for the day Brendan McKibbin spotted a gap in the hosts' defence, and used his quick feet to snipe his way through for Exiles' third try. Myler's conversion ensured a 21-7 lead for Irish at the half-time interval.

With the weather changing to sun, Hartpury started the second half well and it required a useful turnover from Lovejoy Chawatama to prevent them setting up an ideal scoring opportunity.

Exiles remained resolute, however, and they moved further ahead and secured the bonus-point on 60 minutes.

Greig tonks carried the ball effectively before prop Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi left a trail of Hartpury defenders in his wake before dotting down. Myler made it four from four from the tee to extend his side's advantage to 21 points.

The hosts continued to battle away in the final quarter, but it was Irish who had the final word, centre Tom Fowlie taking a flat pass to cross under the posts before Myler ensured another perfect afternoon with his boot.

And while the fly-half admitted it had been a tough day, he was pleased to start with a win.

He commented: "It wasn't particularly enjoyable – just as we went out conditions took a turn for the worse – but we dealt with it pretty well and were pretty clinical when we got into their 22.

"It was always going to be a bit of a battle with the slippy ball, but I thought we navigated our way through the game pretty well.

"It was important to bounce back from a poor performance last week, and no matter what competition it is, we want to win. There were a few guys who'd been chomping at the bit to play, and they came in well."

Two-try hero Fainga'a added: "The two tries came off the back of the tight five working really hard to get me across the line – I'm lucky to get them, but really it's an all-round pack try."

Hartpury RFC: Johnson, Smith, Reeves, Edwards, Sheldon, Leeming, Cochrane; Flook, Stratford, Harden, Hawkins, Linsell, Batley, Pashley, Wilson.

Substitutes: Crane, Merrey, Gibson, Butler, Graham, Venner, Chamberlain.

London Irish: Tonks, Hassell-Collins (Williams 68), Fowlie, Brophy-Clewes (Atkins 68), Nalaga, Myler, McKibbin (Steele 65); Hobbs-Awoyemi, Fainga’a (Porecki 60), Chawatama (Hoskins 60), Maddison (Cooke 70), De Chaves, Gilsenan (Schatz 58), Northcote-Green, Rogerson.

Substitutes: Porecki, Hoskins, Schatz, Cooke, Steele, Atkins, Williams).

Referee: Neil Chivers

Attendance: 705