LONDON Irish crashed to their first Aviva Premiership defeat with a heavy 37-7 loss at the home of reigning champions Exeter Chiefs.

Newly-promoted Exiles were full of confidence before the trip to Sandy Park thanks to an impressive 39-29 win against Harlequins on the opening weekend of the season.

But Nick Kennedy’s men were brought crashing back down to earth by Rob Baxter’s Chiefs as they romped to their first league victory and a bonus point.

And Kennedy had few complaints about the scoreline after a tough day at the office.

"I thought we got taught a lesson by a very, very good team and Exeter showed why they're the best team in the league,” said the London Irish director of rugby.

"They played some outstanding rugby at times and we were on the back foot for the majority of the game. There's lots of lessons for us to learn from that.

"We had a little bit of ball, but we ended up making mistakes with it, but that's not to say we lost the game because of those mistakes. We lost because Exeter were a much better team than us.

"We knew before the game we had a lot of work to do and it's just confirmation so we'll roll up our sleeves and keep working hard."

Irish were put under constant pressure in the first half as Chiefs threatened to run riot.

Gareth Steenson kicked the hosts in front with an early penalty then provided the telling pass which put Henry Slade away for the game’s first try to extend the Exeter lead.

It took Irish until 19 minutes to threaten themselves, with James Marshall halted short of the line by a scramble Chiefs defence.

But the visitors conceded a second score seven minutes later when referee Craig Maxwell-Keys awarded Exeter a penalty after a dominant driving lineout had been illegally stopped.

Irish were hanging on at that stage as Jack Nowell and Olly Woodburn threatened further touchdowns before openside flanker Don Armand finished off a powerful forwards move by sliding over in the corner for a 20-0 lead at the break.

The Exiles regrouped at the interval and enjoyed more territory and possession at the start of the season half, only to be let down by handling errors and missed opportunities.

Steenson made it 23-0 with a penalty after a high tackle, but Irish hit back when Alex Lewington’s clever kick was collected by Tommy Bell, only for the alert Woodburn to snuff out the danger with the Irish back inches from dabbing down.

Exiles, to their credit, refused to give in and the their travelling fans had something to cheer when replacement scrum-half Brendan McKibbin’s blind-side pass from the base of a maul sent Lewington scampering over the line for a try.

But as Irish searched for a bonus-point they were dealt a cruel blow when McKibbin’s looping pass was intercepted by Woodburn, who sprinted clear from inside his own 22 to dot down under the posts to seal a bonus point.

Exeter then added gloss to the scoreline when Armand blasted his way over from close range for his second of the afternoon, with Steenson adding the extras from in front.

Baster said: "We had overall control for long periods. We were a bit more composed against a London Irish side who put in a big emotional performance last week in beating Harlequins at Twickenham.

"The second half got a bit frustrating as the game seemed to be petering out.

"We were disappointed to concede as we missed a great opportunity to get a nil on the scoreboard, but we had a great last seven minutes to score two tries and pick up the bonus."

Irish hope to bounce back this Friday night when they travel to Sale Sharks (8pm ko).

Exeter: Dollman; Nowell, Slade, Whitten, Woodburn; Steenson, White; Moon, Yeandle (capt), Francis, Lees, J Hill, Dennis, Armand, S.Simmonds. Replacements: Taione, Rimmer, Williams, Skinner, Kvesic, Townsend, Bodilly, Turner.

London Irish: Bell; Lewington, Hearn, McLean, Ojo; Marshall, Steele; Hobbs-Awoyemi, Paice (capt), Du Plessis; van der Merwe, De Chaves; Coman, Cowan, Treviranus. Replacements: Porecki, Reid, Franks, McNally, Gilsenan, McKibbin, Tonks, Tikoirotuma.

Attendance: 8,536.