GEORGE Skivington was delighted London Irish passed a 'test of character' with an important 26-23 Greene King IPA Championship victory at Bedford Blues on Saturday, writes Richard Ashton.

Exiles were forced to dig deep after a tough first half which firstly saw them lose Matt Williams to injury in the warm-up, before both Ben Meehan and Ben Loader also had to depart before the break.

The visitors trailed 16-7 on the stroke of half-time before Brendan Macken's second try of the afternoon gave them hope, and following further scores from Terence Hepetema and substitute Ofisa Treviranus, a heroic defensive effort saw them hang on to grab a vital five points.

The victory keeps Exiles nine points clear of Ealing Trailfinders with eight matches left to play, and forwards coach Skivington praised his charges following a tough afternoon at a side who had lost only once before at home in the league this season.

Among those singled out for plaudits were try-scorer Hepetema and his centre partner Tom Stephenson, with Skivington commenting: "They work well as a unit. They got tested in defence because Bedford are really strong and have got some real pace, but they were good in attack because they're powerful and they've got good feet.

"We got tested character-wise in a few areas, especially early on – we had a couple of injuries, especially Matty (Williams) pulling out (in the warm-up), Ben Meehan hurting his hip, and a couple of lads had niggles at half time – but they had to battle through and they did, so fair play.

"It's an interesting pitch with the slope, but something you've got to deal with, and we did, so we're pleased."

Australian back row Jake Schatz was also pleased to see Exiles record a sixth straight win in all competitions: reflecting: "We're delighted with five points on the road. We really dug in at the end and the boys showed the desperation we needed in a tight game away. It was really good.

"We had a few things go against us in the first half, but credit to the guys for digging in, showing some character and coming through the other side."

Irish will target another victory when Coventry visit Madejski Stadium on Saturday (3pm), and Skivington issued a warning.

He said: "It's a massive game – Coventry have maybe been the surprise team this season, but they're playing really well.

"We've played them twice and they've been tough games both times, and I'm sure they'll be looking forward to giving us another crack."