Andrew Fenby scored a first-half hat-trick as London Irish producing a pulsating first 40 minutes of rugby to see off Newcastle Falcons with a bonus point win at the Madejski stadium.
All of Irish’s points came in the first half as Fenby’s three tries, on top of scores from Fergus Mulchrone, Eamonn Sheridan and Gerard Ellis and ten points from James O’Connor, secured the victory.
Rory Clegg kicked all 12 of Newcastle’s points and despite a more resolute defensive performance in the second half, they couldn’t penetrate the Irish try line.
Irish raced out the blocks and were ahead on four minutes when Fenby crossed from close range after a good driving maul, allowing O’Connor to nail the conversion from close to the touchline.
Newcastle’s reply was immediate as Irish conceded a penalty straight from the kick-off and Clegg got the visitors on the board.
But moments later it was Clegg’s clearance after the next restart that was charged down to gift Irish their second try inside the first ten minutes.
Centre Mulchrone picking up the loose ball for the home side and running in the try before O’Connor once again was successful with the conversion.
Clegg slotted a second penalty for the Falcons but Irish’s dominance became more evident when they added their third try through Fenby, who breezed through a gaping hole in the visiting defence.
Newcastle wouldn’t go away however and scored two further penalties to remain within once score at 19-12 on the half-hour mark but that wasn’t to last.
Irish soon brought up the bonus point thanks to Sheridan, who crossed on 35 minutes, while there was still time for Fenby to secure his hat-trick.
Ellis added a sixth try before half-time to bring to an end a pulsating first 40 minutes, O’Connor having converted all three late tries to give Irish a 40-12 lead at the break.
After such a disappointing end to the first half, Newcastle director of rugby Dean Richards wasted no time in making changes to his side.
Three fresh faces in George McGuigan, Scott Wilson and Joel Hodgson all appeared for the second half with replacement fly-half Hodgson troubling the Irish defence early on with a darting run.
Newcastle continued to pressurise as Mike Blair attempted to increase the game’s tempo and the visitors should have had their first try after 55 minutes but knocked on as the try line beckoned.
Multiple penalties followed for Newcastle in the Irish 22 but the visitors failed to find a way through a stubborn defence as try-scoring opportunities continued to go begging.
Irish’s best moment of the second half came in the 65th minute when Mulchrone collected Shane Geraghty’s chip but the centre was brought down short of the line.
Geraghty then put in a try saving tackle on Sinoti Sinoti as the game drew to a close – the Samoan collecting Hodgson’s pinpoint cross-field kick on the wing but failing to score as Geraghty forced him into touch.