London Irish maintained their vice-like grip at the top of Pool One in the Challenge Cup with a resounding 59-7 victory over Dax at the Madejski Stadium on Thursday.
It didn't take the Exiles long to get going, Elvis Seveali'i running in the opening try as early as the fourth minute. Peter Hewat's floated pass saw Seveali'i hand off a poor attempted tackle from Florian Argel before turning on the pace to cruise home from forty metres out.
Six minutes later, following some more suspect Dax defence, Hewat extended the lead with a long range penalty. Almost immediately from the re-start Irish struck again, this time through second row James Hudson, but it was Argentine scrum-half Alfredo Lalanne's clever footwork and acceleration that made the try.
Any thoughts that Dax would lie down and accept a beating were misguided, as they steadied the ship and began to cause Irish's defence some problems of it's own. Sadly Dax lacked the killer instinct to convert any of their chances into points.
The Exiles continued to meander their way through the remainder of the half, leaving coaches Toby Booth and Mike Catt with plenty to think about at half-time. Having seen their side start with such impetus, only to lose it at an alarming rate, will have been a concern to the coaching duo - after all this is the side being labelled as favourites for not just the pool, but the entire tournament.
Whatever was said at the break seemed to be taken on board, Delon Armitage taking just six minutes of the second half to put Irish within touching distance of a bonus point.
Hewat was again the creator as Delon Armitage continued his good run of form, stepping past a forlorn Gavin Williams to power over for Irish's third try. Hewat maintained his 100 per cent kicking record for the night, and the Exiles had a platform from which to secure the bonus point.
When all was said and done, after much huffing and puffing without success in the first half, London Irish had the game secured after fifty minutes, Seveali'i adding a second. With uncontested scrums and the extra space afforded at them by the ELVs, Seveali'i had the time to build up a head of steam that was unstoppable from five metres out.
Knowing the game was in the bag Booth introduced Shane Geraghty, and the young fly-half's impact was almost immediate. A few minutes after coming on it was the England cap who sent Topsy Ojo careering over the line for try number five.
By the time Warren Fury barged his way over, with just fourteen minutes remaining, you got the impression that Dax had given up hope, seemingly turning their intentions to next weekend's top 14 clash with Clermont instead.
Dax did get a consolation score as the game drew to a close, Jannie Bornman going over after a loose London Irish pass turned possession over. But fittingly it was the home side who had the final say, Fury adding his second as the Dax defence parted with far too much ease, before Hewat bagged a try of his own to finish proceedings off.
The pool is all but theirs now, but if the Exiles harbour serious ambitions for overall glory they can ill afford to switch off for so long in a game that gave them a perfect opportunity to amass an even larger score. That said, when they did kick into gear after the break they looked every bit worth their favourites tag.
For London Irish:
Tries: Seveali'i 2, Hudson, Armitage, Ojo, Fury 2, Hewat
Cons: Hewat 8
Con: Vignau Tuquet
London Irish: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Topsy Ojo, 13 Elvis Seveali'i, 12 Charlie Gower, 11 Dominic Shabbo, 10 Peter Hewat, 9 Alfredo Lalanne, 8 Richard Thorpe, 7 Declan Danaher, 6 Kieran Roche, 5 Bob Casey (c), 4 James Hudson, 3 Alex Corbisiero, 2 James Buckland, 1 Dan Murphy,
Replacements: 16 Clarke Dermody, 17 Danie Coetzee, 18 Nick Kennedy, 19 Gary Johnson, 20 James Bailey, 21 Warren Fury, 22 Shane Geraghty.
Dax: 15 Laurent Diaz, 14 Lucas Borges, 13 Florian Argel, 12 Gavin Williams, 11 Paul Albaladejo, 10 Antoine Vignau Tuquet, 9 Jean Baptiste Pezet, 8 Pierre Caillet, 7 Vincent Deniau, 6 Jannie Bornman, 5 Kane Thompson, 4 MickaŰl Bert, 3 Renaud Boyoud, 2 Yves Pedrosa, 1 Julien Brugnaut.
Replacements: 16 Nicolas Decamps, 17 William Bonet, 18 Anthony Mazel, 19 CÚdric Guironnet, 20 Bastien Adrillon, 21 Nicolas Morlaes, 22 Duncan Bell.
Referee: James Jones (Wales)
Touch judges: Hugh Watkins (Wales), Simon Harris (Wales)
Television match official: Roy Marfleet (England)
By Marcus Leach