LONDON Irish produced an assured display as they gained revenge for their sole Greene King IPA Championship defeat of the season with a 27-3 bonus-point win at home to Jersey Reds this afternoon, writes Richard Ashton.

Exiles’ dreams of an unbeaten season came unstuck for the second time in three years when they were edged out 17-14 at St Peter back in November, but they turned the tables with a powerful forwards effort which keeps them firmly on track for an immediate return to the Gallagher Premiership.

Declan Kidney’s men came flying out of the blocks and took the lead in just the fifth minute, captain Josh McNally powering over from close range following a series of rumbles towards the visitors’ line. Ben Meehan was unable to add the extras, but the home side had set out their stall.

Irish suffered a set-back when top try-scorer Dave Porecki had to depart to injury in the 14th minute, Australian international Saia Fangia’a replacing him at hooker.

A Meehan penalty extended the hosts’ advantage shortly after, although Reds responded and could have claimed their opening try, only for some excellent Exiles defence to hold prop Roy Godfrey up over the line.

Jersey cut the deficit to 8-3 through a Brett Herron penalty, but Irish came back and took a firm grip on the game after Will Homer was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on inside his own 22.

The hosts kicked to the corner and once again showed the power of their rolling maul, Faingia’a going over at the back of a powerful surge to grab his side’s second try of the afternoon. Meehan converted and Kidney’s men led 15-3.

The pivotal moment of the match arrived three minutes before the break. Reds once again managed to get over the whitewash, but again some heroic Irish defence prevented them from grounding the ball. Jersey kicked a couple of penalties to the corner as they sought to reduce the deficit with a five-pointer of their own, but they were eventually turned over and Irish cleared their lines.

Reds full back Auguy Slowik collected the ball, but his loose pass was then intercepted by Tom Stephenson, the centre going over for Irish to turn what could have been just a five-point lead into one of 17 as the hosts went into the interval 20-3 to the good.

Any hopes of a Reds comeback were dashed in the 56th minute. A period of concerted pressure from Irish, who dominated possession throughout, ended with centre Terence Hepetema forgoing a two-man overlap to shimmy over and cross next to the posts. With Meehan adding his second conversion of the afternoon, Exiles led 27-3 and had sealed their bonus point.

Jersey showed no sign of buckling in the final quarter, and indeed had the better chances to add to their points tally, but Irish’s impeccable scramble defence prevented them from doing so, ensuring the hosts preserved their nine-point lead over Ealing Trailfinders at the head of the table.

Moreover, they now lead both Bedford Blues and Jersey by 16 points with nine games remaining, leaving the hunt for the title as a seemingly two-horse race.

London Irish are back at Madejski Stadium next Sunday (3pm), hosting Coventry in the quarter-finals of the RFU Championship Cup, before a tasty return to league action at Bedford the following Saturday.

London Irish: Veitokani, Williams, Stephenson, Hepetema (Macken, 75), McLean; Atkins (Steele, 66), Meehan; Reid (Elrington, 62), Porecki (Fainga’a, 14), Hoskins (Cilliers, 66), van der Merwe, McNally (c), Schatz (Paulo, 71), Gilsenan (Tuisue, 62), Rogerson

Jersey Reds: Slowik, Worrall, Newey, Best (Penberthy, 53), Van Dam; Herron, Homer (Howley, 65); Godfrey (Morley, 66), Maddison (Selway, 62), Atalifo (Rodman, 59), Sexton (c), Beckett (McKern, 62), Bartle, Argyle, Venter (Upfield, 62)