LONDON Irish crashed to a fifth straight Aviva Premiership defeat following a 28-27 loss to Leicester Tigers at Madejski Stadium.

Once again, Exiles paid the price for a sluggish start and were trailing 21-3 early in the second half.

But Nick Kennedy’s men bravely fought back from there with Alex Lewington’s last-gasp try earning a precious losing bonus point to increase Irish’s lead over basement club Worcester Warriors to five points.

Tigers burst out of the traps on Saturday and scored their first try in the fourth minute, Nick Malouf collecting a looping pass from Matt Toomua before coasting to the line, with George Ford missing the touchline conversion.

The visitors continued to dominate and stretched their lead to 11-0 with a couple of Ford penalties.

But they also missed out on a number of further try-scoring opportunities that included a scramble Irish defence to deny England’s Jonny May a certain score.

Ford soon added another three-pointer to put Tigers 14-0 up before Irish were cursing their luck when referee JP Doyle judged Greig Tonks had been held up over the line as he searched for a try on his first start of the season.

Nevertheless, Irish finally got on the scoreboard with a Tommy Bell penalty to trail 14-3 at the break after Scotland international Tonks had been tackled off the ball by Gareth Owen.

Leicester, though, pulled away again early in the second half when flanker Will Evans powered through a gap to dive over, with Ford’s conversion making it 21-3.

Exiles swiftly replied with Bell’s 47th minute penalty and reduced the arrears further when Blair Cowan, who signed a new deal last week, finished off a well-worked try.

The Scotland star collected a neat offload from Aseli Tikoirotuma and shrugged off both Matthew Tait and Harry Wells on his way to the line, with Bell landing a superb touchline conversion for 21-13.

Bracknell News:

Exiles forward Blair Cowan looks for a way through Leicester Tigers. Pictures: David M.Moore.

Tigers responded with another try of their own just past the hour mark when the impressive May touched down for the sixth time in six games.

But any thoughts the visitors had of a comfortable ending were soon banished by the dogged Exiles.

They notched their second try of the day on 68 minutes when Paice burrowed over, with Bell adding the extras to make it 28-20.

Bracknell News:

Exiles ace David Paice shrugs off some Leicester tackles on Saturday.

And in a grandstand finish the hosts crossed the whitewash again, Harry Elrington's excellent carry taking Irish close before the ball was moved wide to Lewington who sped over for a converted score and a losing bonus point at the very death.

Nevertheless, Kennedy refused to paper over the cracks, stating: “I was pleased with the effort and the way we came back, but again we gave ourselves a mountain to climb.

“We could have three tries in the second half. When we had the ball we weren’t clinical enough.

“I knew it would be very hard but I didn’t know it would play out like it has so far.”

Leicester head coach Matt O’Connor added: “The four points is important away from home and four wins on the bounce."

Next up for Irish is a home clash against Edinburgh in the European Challenge Cup this Saturday (3pm ko) before a trip to resigning champions Stade Francais the following weekend.

London Irish: Bell, Lewington, Tikoirotuma (Brophy Clews 63), Tonks (Fowlie78), Ojo, Marshall, Meehan (Steele 51), Franks (Elrington 66), Paice (c), Du Plessis (Hoskins 58), Van der Merwe, De Chaves (Paulo 52), McNally, Cowan, Schatz (Lomidze 63). Reps not used: Gleave.

Leicester Tigers: Tait (J.Ford 76), Malouf, Owen, Toomua (Smith 62), May, G.Ford (c), Harrison (White 32), Bateman (Genge 49), McGuigan (Youngs 72), Cole (Cilliers 49), Tuohy (Wells 62), Barrow, Kalamafoni (Hamilton 30), Evans, Mapapalangi.

Referee: JP Doyle.