A late Ryan Lamb penalty earned London Irish a 12-11 win over Cardiff Blues in the LV=Cup at Cardiff City Stadium on Sunday.
Replacement Lamb kicked a penalty five minutes from time to give London Irish their first win of their LV= Cup campaign as they ground out victory in a match characterised by several kicking battles at Cardiff City Stadium.
Irish led 6-3 at the break thanks to a penalty apiece from Tom Homer and Peter Hewat, with Ceri Sweeney kicking a penalty of his own for Cardiff.
Hewat and Sweeney exchanged penalties after the interval before a breakaway try for scrum-half Richie Rees put the Blues 11-9 ahead, but Lamb stepped up to seal the win with Sweeney missing a tough long-range penalty in stoppage time.
Cardiff, the defending champions, brought hooker Gareth Williams and prop Gary Powell into their front row following their thrilling win at Gloucester last weekend, while centre Dafydd Hewitt was the only change to the backline that started at Kingsholm.
London Irish boss Toby Booth decided to keep faith with the same side that lost to Wasps in their Anglo-Welsh opener with Peter Richards leading the side and academy products Jonathan Joseph and Charlie Gower forming the centre pairing.
The Blues made the brighter start with ball in hand, Sweeney doing much of the probing with several slick inside passes and a well-weighted cross-kick for wing Richard Mustoe, but it was the Exiles who took the lead as Cardiff's midfield defence was caught offside and Homer landed the resulting long-range penalty.
Homer missed a chance to double that lead when Powell was penalised for a high tackle but his 45 metre effort was wide of the left-hand upright.
The hosts hit back with another flowing attacking movement which ended when hooker Williams knocked on a pass from lock Deiniol Jones, but Sweeney levelled the scores when Irish failed to roll away at the tackle area.
The Blues continued to look the more dangerous side when they chose to keep ball in hand, as the game was punctuated by several passages of aimless tactical kicking, but Dai Young's side showed a lack of composure when in their opponents' 22, with several passes going astray.
Irish finally made their first meaningful foray into Cardiff's 22 just past the half hour mark as captain Richards took a quick tap on halfway to burst through the Blues defence, as the ball came loose from the scrum-half's grasp it was picked up by Steffon Armitage, but the flanker ignored a three-man overlap and the chance was lost.
That attack spurred Irish into their best period of the game and, with the Blues giving away a penalty for offside, wing Hewat blasted over a penalty from just short of halfway to give the visitors a 6-3 half-time advantage.
That lead was extended within moments of the resumption as Hewat knocked over another long-range penalty and the Exiles should have scored the game's opening try seconds later, but prop Clarke Dermody spilled the ball with wing John Rudd free outside him.
Sweeney trimmed the lead to three points with his second penalty and the Blues claimed the lead for the first time moments later after a loose pass in midfield by Irish fly-half Chris Malone.
Lock Jones flicked the loose ball to Sweeney who found scrum-half Richie Rees outside him. Rees still had 40 metres to go but he outpaced the cover and stepped inside the covering Richards to score an unconverted try, confirmed by the video official.
Malone was soon replaced by player-coach Mike Catt and Lamb came on for Joseph, and their creative skills did improve Irish's effectiveness with ball in hand but they continued to struggle to break down a tigerish Cardiff defence.
But, when Cardiff prop Taufa'ao Filise was penalised by referee JP Doyle at a scrum Lamb made no mistake with a 35 metre penalty from the right side of the field to snatch victory.
There was still time for Lamb to fall short with another penalty before Sweeney dragged a last-gasp three-pointer wide from 50 metres.
For London Irish:
Pens:Homer,Hewat 2, Lamb
Cardiff Blues: 15 Sam Norton-Knight, 14 Richard Mustoe, 13 Gareth Thomas, 12 Dafydd Hewitt, 11 Chris Czekaj, 10 Ceri Sweeney, 9 Richie Rees, 8 Xavier Rush (c), 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Ben White, 5 Scott Morgan, 4 Deiniol Jones, 3 Gary Powell, 2 Gareth Williams, 1 Taufa'ao Filise.
Replacements: 16 T Rhys Thomas 17 Sam Hobbs 18 Scott Andrews 19 James Down 20 Chris Dicomidis 21 Darren Allinson 22 Gavin Evans 23 Ben Blair
London Irish: 15 Jamie Lennard, 14 Peter Hewat, 13 Tom Homer, 12 Charlie Gower, 11 John Rudd, 10 Chris Malone, 9 Peter Richards (c), 8 Richard Thorpe, 7 Jonathon Fisher, 6 Kieran Roche, 5 Gary Johnson, 4 Andy Perry, 3 Alex Corbisiero,2 David Paice, 1 Dan Murphy.
Replacements: 16 James Buckland, 17 Danie Coetzee, 18 Max Lahiff, 19 Matt Garvey, 20 Steffon Armitage, 21 Marcus Watson, 22 Mike Catt, 23 Jonathan Joseph
Date: Sunday 15 November
Venue: Cardiff City Stadium
Kick-off: 13.45 GMT