London Irish can still avoid Aviva Premiership drop - Tom Coventry

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Director of rugby Tom Coventry remains optimistic about avoiding the drop despite watching London Irish fall further behind their rivals following a 22-15 Aviva Premiership defeat to Exeter.

Results this weekend have put Coventry's men in further peril as both Newcastle and Worcester picked up valuable wins to increase the gap over Irish, who now find themselves five points behind 11th place.

Coventry said: "We were a lot better today and found a lot more energy. We had a good start and showed spirit but we have to learn not to give up leads and the loss hurts a lot.

"I'm an optimistic guy and all is not lost. We have a chance in every game that we play but realistically we do have to start winning away."

Irish outscored their opponents by two tries to one but ill-discipline -- they lost David Paice and Ian Nagle to yellow cards -- allowed Gareth Steenson to kick four penalties and a conversion following Dave Lewis' try for Exeter.

Coventry was unhappy with the award of the Chiefs' try, adding: "The TMO should have been involved, there appeared to be an obstruction and technology should have been used as the game meant a lot to us."

Midway through the first half, Irish lost captain Matt Symons to an injury, adding to an already crippling list of casualties.

Coventry said: "He had a knock on the head and had blurred vision, he passed the first test so he went back on but the problem recurred.

"We have 16 or 17 players out but some of our players are slowly coming back but at present we are lacking the experience to get over the winning line."

Topsy Ojo scored a splendid individual try for the home side, Ofisa Treviranus recording the other, while Theo Brophy-Clews kicked one penalty and a conversion.

Exeter boss Rob Baxter said: "They took tempo out of the game, they even had ball-boys deliberately not giving the ball to our hookers but it showed they feared us. We found a win with our driving game and scrum coming through in the end.

"We battled as there's no team in the Premiership which rolls over. We squeezed them but it gets tougher and tougher and you need to pick up points all the time to remain in the top four.

"We were prepared to battle as Dom Armand showed by chasing Ojo all the way to the line to stop an easy conversion."