NICK Kennedy admitted London Irish's 24-16 defeat at Wasps was the "story of their Aviva Premiership season," writes Richard Ashton.

Exiles fought back bravely to trail 17-16 with five minutes remaining, only for former hooker Tom Cruse to score his second try of the game and leave the visitors without a losing bonus point.

The result leaves London Irish 12 points adrift at the foot of the table with only five games remaining, with their chances of avoiding the drop looking bleak.

Kennedy admitted: “It’s the story of our season so far. We came very, very close with a lot of fight and endeavour and ultimately ending up losing to an error. The boys are obviously very down and, as coaches, we’re extremely proud of the players. They fought for everything, right to the end, even when the game was lost.

“The way they clawed their way back into the game from a big deficit and the way we took the game to Wasps with our maul and our scrum, I’m just very, very proud of the effort."

Captain Franco van der Merwe echoed the director of rugby's sentiments, adding: "I’m very proud of the boys. From managers, players, coaches, I think we put up a great performance.

"It was 30 seconds which made a difference and that’s what top class Premiership rugby does.

"If you’re lacking for a couple of seconds, opposition will score points against you."

The game was played in torrential rain, and the South African ace admitted it was tough conditions.

He confessed: "It was horrible. I’m not used to this sort of weather, but I thought the boys showed great character and getting that maul with five minutes left showed that."

With Exiles staring down the barrel of relegation, the second row said his team will fight to the end.

He revealed: "We’ve got to play every game like it’s a play-off and we can’t control what is going on around us.

“The only thing we can focus on is the next game and we’ll give it our absolute all every time we pull on the London Irish jersey.”

Exiles have a two-week break before welcoming Gloucester to Madejski Stadium for the annual St Patrick's Day Party on Saturday, March 24.

And Kennedy admitted a victory is essential as they bid to maintain their top-flight status.

He said: "We have to beat Gloucester at home in two weeks’ time.

"That’s all our focus is at the moment. That’s all we’re worried about.”

Exiles have a tough run-in to the season with home games against Exeter and Saracens and trips to Harlequins and Bath rounding off their campaign.