LONDON Irish produced an excellent performance as they continued to build momentum with a third straight win in all competitions, putting an under-strength Wasps to the sword 66-7 in their Anglo-Welsh Cup encounter at Madejski Stadium this afternoon, writes Richard Ashton.

Nick Kennedy’s men made a dream start as they scored within four minutes. Some fine ball retention ended with the ball being shipped down the backline, and a superb off-load from South African debutant Arno Botha created space on the left touchline for win Alex Lewington.

The Saracens-bound flyer showed his predatory instincts by galloping clear from 35 metres out, James Marshall unable to add the extras from out wide.

The remainder of the opening quarter showed both sides willing to throw the ball around despite miserable conditions, a constant drizzle and cold temperature meaning such ambition occasionally led to the ball being spilled.

It was Irish who moved further ahead midway through the first half, a powerful rolling maul halted just short of the line before Scott Steele passed to Johnny Williams, only for the centre to be repelled inches short of the line. However, Steele picked up at the back of the ruck and sniped over, Marshall converting to make it 12-0.

The youthful Wasps side hit back, though, with a fine try of their own. Camping themselves in the Irish 22 for a series of phases, a powerful surge from prop Will Stuart got them over the gain line before a beautiful floated pass from England Under 20s fly half Jacob Umaga freed full back Nick Foster to cross on the right. An excellent conversion from Umaga cut the gap to five points.

That was as good as it got for the visitors in the opening 40 minutes, however, with some excellent handling creating space on the right wing for the ever-impressive Joe Cokanasiga. The wrecking ball showed his pace to scoot 40 metres down the touchline, brushing aside an attempted cover tackle from Taju Atta before placing the ball under the posts. Marshall made no mistake and Irish were back in control.

The home side wrapped up the bonus point shortly after as man-of-the-match Theo Brophy Clews – who had another fine game following his four-try salvo against Krasny Yar two weeks beforehand – made a sensational break before being stopped just short of the line. Ollie Hoskins picked a great line to receive a Steele pass, though, and barrelled over before Marshall made it 26-7.

There was no let-up from the home side as half time approached, and they picked up a fifth try with the last play of the opening 40 minutes. After hammering away at the line, they swung the ball left, leaving Marshall with the simple task of falling over the line for a try. The Kiwi then landed a brilliant touchline conversion to cap a super half of rugby from Kennedy’s men.

Exiles began the second half as they finished the third, extending their lead just past the 50-minute mark as replacement hooker Saia Fangia’a made an immediate impact. An excellent rolling maul took Irish over their opponents’ tryline, leaving the Australian international with the task of placing the ball down. Another excellent Marshall kick followed.

The seventh home try followed shortly after as a brilliant break from Tom Fowlie saw him midway inside the Wasps 22, but the Academy graduate unselfishly passed inside to debutant scrum half - a half-time substitute – to swallow dive over for his first Exiles try. Fellow replacement Tommy Bell knocked over the extras from in front of the posts.

The game became increasingly broken up as both sides made a raft of changes, descending into a sevens-esque encounter at times with the ball flying everywhere through the hands.

It was Exiles who moved further in front as the game entered its final 10 minutes, the outstanding Cokanasiga cutting through the defence before skipping clear for his second. Bell surprisingly missed the conversion, but Irish were 52-7 to the good.

With the game entering the final five minutes, Tikoirotuma added his name to the scoresheet when he showed the Wasps defence a clean pair of heels in bursting 35 metres down the left-hand touchline. Bell made amends for his previous aberration by landing a majestic conversion.

And with the clock running down, Cokanasiga completed a hat-trick as his star continues to rise, the future England international taking a glorious inside ball before racing away to put a further gloss on the scoreline. Bell made no mistake with the conversion and Irish fans left delighted.

This was a third straight victory for an Exiles side which appears to be gaining confidence with each success. They travel to Cardiff Blues for their final game in this competition next weekend, before a trio of vital Aviva Premiership games in their bid to avoid the drop.

Sale Sharks visit Irish on Saturday, February 10, before Kennedy’s men visit Northampton Saints the week after. The crunch home game against Worcester Warriors then takes place on Sunday, February 25. By that stage, Exiles’ prospects for the season could be firmly shaped.