FIT-AGAIN Theo Brophy Clews was delighted to play the full 80 minutes as London Irish were knocked out of the Premiership Rugby Cup following a 44-27 defeat at Bristol Bears on Sunday.

The 22-year-old, who has suffered various injury problems in the past couple of seasons, started at inside centre and made a promising comeback.

He said: "I'm really happy to play the full 80 minutes. There are times when you're wondering 'when's it going to come', so it was special for me.

"I'm gutted not to win, but on a personal note, it was nice to be back out there.

"It was a tough battle. There were phases of play where we were good, but then we let them off the hook.

"They came really hard at us and had two times where they scored two quick tries. They deserved to win."

Exiles took a second-minute lead courtesy of a Stephen Myler penalty, only for Tiff Eden to reply with one of his own.

It was Irish who scored the first try of the game, though, Academy scrum-half Caolan Englefield collecting a Brophy Clews off-load to dive over in a move which also featured fellow homegrown talent Ollie Hassell-Collins.

Yet Bristol struck back emphatically and scored two tries in as many minutes just before the half-hour mark.

Firstly, hooker Harry Thacker went over at the back of a rolling maul, and then England international Nathan Hughes grabbed his first try for the Bears since his close-season move from Wasps.

With Eden converting both tries, the hosts led 17-8 at the interval.

Bristol extended their lead three minutes into the second period, scrum-half Andy Uren sniping over before Eden converted and added a penalty to put his side 27-8 to the good.

However, Irish rallied superbly, and a brace of converted tries from young wing Ben Loader drew them back to within five points of the Bears.

Yet that was as good as it got for Declan Kidney's men, with Eden landing another penalty before another quickfire double – this time courtesy of the outstanding Mat Protheroe in the 73rd and 77th minutes – put the game to bed.

It was Exiles who had the final word in recording a deserved try bonus-point, though, with replacement Jack Cooke dotting down with the last play of the game.

Despite having lost two of their three group games, wing Matt Williams believes his side are improving.

He commented: "We're extremely disappointed to lose the game, but I think there were some good patches in there.

"In the end, a little bit of ill-discipline from us and some good play from Bristol cost us.

"We'll be looking to right some wrongs in front of hopefully a big crowd on Saturday and aim to make the supporters proud."

Meanwhile, fellow Academy graduate Isaac Curtis-Harris added: "I thought we played well and the final score doesn't really reflect how we played.

"At half-time there wasn't much in it, and we stayed relatively close till towards the end. The final score is frustrating."

London Irish are at home to Sale Sharks on Saturday (3pm), before they begin their Gallagher Premiership campaign at Wasps the following Sunday.