LONDON Irish put in a gallant performance in securing a losing bonus-point in their 19-15 Aviva Premiership defeat at Leicester Tigers.

And while it was a 12th straight league loss for Nick Kennedy’s men, the courage they showed to pick up a point cuts the gap to Worcester Warriors to nine in what may yet prove to be an epic relegation battle.

Leicester dominated the opening skirmishes territorially, but it was Exiles who crossed first as Alex Lewington – returning to his former club – pulled off an interception before easing over the line, only for play to be brought back for an earlier Ofisa Treviranus knock-on.

Greig Tonks missed a penalty shortly after before the impressive Joe Cokanasiga made 40 metres before off-loading to Johnny Williams who was hauled down short of the Tigers’ try-line.

Irish did take the lead at the start of the second quarter, and it was that man Cokanasiga – called up to the England squad earlier in the week – who took the plaudits having hacked a loose ball forward before the TMO ruled he had grounded it ahead of Leicester full back Jonny May. Tonks missed the conversion but Irish led 5-0.

May appeared set to bring his side back into the contest as he sprinted towards the corner soon after, but his nemesis Cokanasiga put in a massive hit to knock the flyer into touch.

However, it was not long until Leicester did open their account, a superb break by May allowing fellow England international, scrum half Ben Youngs, to find Brendon O’Connor who in turn off-loaded to Australian centre Matt Toomua for a fine score. George Ford converted with what proved to be the final score of the opening 40 minutes.

Tigers began the second half well and extended their lead early on, the TMO again referred to but ruling there was no knock-on in the build-up to May’s try. Ford sliced his kick wide, but the hosts had a seven-point advantage.

Leicester continued to dominate, but some excellent Irish defence kept them in the game before they cut the deficit to 12-8 courtesy of a 57th-minute Tonks penalty.

Leicester continued to pile on the pressure, crossing the line only to be held up on a couple of occasions, but eventually Manu Tuilagi used his power to go over for the hosts’ third try. Ford converted and Tigers led 19-8 with nine minutes remaining.

However, much to Exiles’ credit, rather than the home side securing a try bonus-point, it was Irish who earned themselves something to take away.

Cokanasiga was again at the heart of the action as his excellent off-load to fellow wing Lewington allowed the former Tiger to squeeze in at the corner. Tonks struck a fine conversion and the visitors were just four behind.

Sadly, while they had the ball towards the end, as has so often been the case this season, they could not fashion a match-winning score.

London Irish return to European Challenge Cup action with a home game against Russian side Krasmy Yar next Saturday (3pm).