|Wasps (16) 26|
|Tries: Kibirige 2, Robson Con: Sopoaga Pens: Sopoaga 2, Umaga|
|London Irish (19) 29|
|Tries: Cowan, Tuisue, Hassell-Collins Con: Jackson Pens: Jackson 4|
Promoted London Irish marked their return to the Premiership with a 29-26 victory over Wasps at the Ricoh Arena.
Two tries on debut by Wasps wing Zach Kibirige were matched by efforts from Blair Cowan and Albert Tuisue as both sides led during the first half.
Paddy Jackson’s third penalty handed Irish a 19-16 lead at the break.
Ollie Hassell-Collins’ try and another Jackson penalty extended the lead, but although Dan Robson replied with Irish down to 14 men the Exiles hung on.
After Jackson’s kick had handed Irish – who won 20 out of 22 games on the way to the Championship title last season – a 13-point advantage, Wasps piled on the pressure and pinned the visitors back deep inside their own half.
But, despite Irish having lock Ruan Botha sent to the sin-bin for pulling down a driving maul, Robson’s close-range effort and a Jacob Umaga penalty was all Wasps could muster for their dominance.
Even in the final minute Wasps turned the ball over inside the Exiles’ 22 but phase after phase was thwarted until Irish forced an error to end the game and seal only their second win in 26 Premiership away games.
Both sides handed debuts to summer signings, with Kibirige and New Zealand international Malakai Fekitoa starting for Wasps, while former Ulster fly-half Jackson made his Irish bow.
In a see-saw first half Lima Sopoaga kicked Wasps into an early lead only for Cowan to capitalise on Hassell-Collins’ break to burrow over from close range.
Kibirige replied with a stunning finish in the corner, touching down while his legs were in the air and out of play, before Tuisue powered his way over from 10m off the back of a line-out to restore Irish’s lead.
Marcus Watson put Kibirige in again as Wasps again hit back, only for Jackson’s boot to nudge Irish back in front on the stroke of half-time.
Hassell-Collins raced onto Cowan’s pass to score from inside his own half for his side’s third try but from then on it was all Wasps.
The home side had their chances after Robson had given them hope but Watson was tackled short of the line when he went himself with team-mates up in support, while Kibirige was only denied a hat-trick by a brilliant covering tackle by Irish full-back Tom Parton.
Wasps director of rugby Dai Young:
“We should have been better than that as we gave away some soft tries with two conceded from turnovers.
“We didn’t get much ball in the first half and when we did, we panicked. We left ourselves with a mountain to club and I’m frustrated that we put ourselves in that position.
“The second half was a reversal of the first as we had plenty of the ball but we weren’t good enough to change the scoreline.
“We knew it would be tough against them as the promoted side has won on the opening day in three of the last four seasons, and parts of their game were top drawer.
“There were a few positives out there with Zach Kibirige finishing fantastically.”
London Irish director of rugby Declan Kidney:
“We took our chances and the 10 points we scored just after half-time proved crucial.
“We were pleased with the performances of our back three as they are all our Academy products and it shows that players want to stay with the club.”
Wasps: Watson; Kibirige, Fekitoa, Le Bourgeois, Bassett; Sopoaga, Robson (capt); Zhvania, Cruse, Brookes, Gaskell, Matthews, Shields, Willis, Vailanu.
Replacements: Oghre, Harris, Toomaga-Allen, Flament, Carr, Wolstenholme, Umaga, de Jongh.
London Irish: Parton; Loader, Rona, Hepetema, Hassell-Collins; Jackson, Steele; Hobbs-Awoyemi, Fainga’a, Hoskins, van der Merwe (capt), Botha, Rogerson, Cowan, Tuisue.
Replacements: McMillan, Elrington, Chawatama, Nott, Gilsenan, Meehan, Myler, Williams.
Sin-bin: Ruan Botha (63)
Referee: JP Doyle (RFU)