FIVE-TRY London Irish took a giant step towards winning the Greene King IPA Championship after an excellent 35-7 triumph at Cornish Pirates on Saturday.

The result maintained Exiles' eight-point lead over Ealing Trailfinders at the top of the table, with only three games remaining now.

Declan Kidney's men went into the contest on the back of their 49-12 St Patrick's Party victory against Doncaster Knights, and it took just 13 minutes for the visitors to move ahead.

Irish won a penalty which they kicked to the corner, and after the forwards set up a solid base, the ball was switched out to Tom Stephenson who threw a dummy before sliding over. Keatley added the extras to put Exiles 7-0 to the good.

Stephenson doubled his tally seven minutes later after collecting a pass from hooker Dave Porecki, with Keatley again successful with the conversion.

Pirates fought back, however, and it took some brilliant defence from Porecki, Luke McLean and captain Josh McNally to thwart a try-scoring effort by pushing the hosts into touch.

The irrepressible Porecki – one of Exiles' stars of the season – along with Albert Tuisue and Fergus Mulchrone were then on hand to stop Pirates from opening their account, and Irish then inflicted a further blow to the home side by scoring four minutes before the break.

The move was started by full-back Alvireti Veitokani – improving with every game – as he off-loaded to in-form young wing Ben Loader.

The former Leighton Park pupil did well to stay on his feet before Keatley off-loaded to McLean, who in turn found scrum-half Ben Meehan to go over.

With Keatley adding the extras, Exiles led 21-0 at the break, in a game some had viewed as a serious banana skin in their bid to return to the Gallagher Premiership at the first time of asking.

There was no let-up from Irish after the break, and they wrapped up the bonus-point in some style on 46 minutes, the electric Loader fielding a kick before brushing off two defenders to race across the line for a try converted by Keatley.

Pirates again refused to give in and enjoyed a period of possession, though it was actually an interception which led to their opening score, Sam Matavesi the beneficiary.

While the home side continued to pressure Exiles, a combination of rock solid defence and intelligent game management from Keatley kept them at bay, and it was Irish who would have the final say five minutes from time.

Stephenson was again involved, bursting clear before passing to Meehan for the Australian's second of the afternoon, Keatley maintaining his immaculate record from the tee with a fifth successful kick on a tremendous day for Exiles.

London Irish have a week off before returning to action at home to Hartpury RFC on Sunday, April 14.