A stunning second-half collapse against Wasps has almost certainly killed off London Irish’s hopes of European Champions Cup qualification in a thrilling encounter at Brentford Community Stadium.
Leading 33-10 at half-time, the Exiles surrendered five tries after the interval to lose 39-36 as the visitors leapfrogged them on the Gallagher Premiership table to climb into the top-eight with a try from Tom Willis deep into stoppage time sealing a dramatic win.
Irish conclude their season at leaders Bristol next week and require victory and help from elsewhere to have any slim hope of securing their spot at the top table of European club rugby for the first time in a decade.
In front of over 4,000 fans on a glorious afternoon, the match started in dream fashion for the Exiles who led 19-3 after 18 minutes thanks to a pair of Curtis Rona tries and a five-pointer by Oli Hasell-Collins.
A Josh Bassett intercept try closed the gap to 19-10 before the hosts finished in blistering fashion with two scores from bulldozing No.8 Albert Tuisue to secure a bonus point.
But with their season very much on the line, the former European champions came racing out of the blocks after halftime with two quickfire tries from Willis and Marcus Watson but Jacob Umaga was unable to kick the conversions to leave Irish comfortably ahead.
But rocked by those early setbacks, Irish looked a shadow of the side that dominated the opening 40 minutes and when lock Adam Coleman was yellow-carded, Willis scored his second try under the posts just after Paddy Jackson had settled hosts’ nerves slightly with a penalty.
Jackson then had a glorious opportunity to put Irish 39-25 in front but his penalty, in perfect kicking conditions, bounced off the upright.
Buoyed by that let-off, Wasps winger Bassett scored a converted try to close the deficit to four points and for the final five minutes set up camp on the Irish line.
With time expired, Irish thought they had won the game when Watson’try was disallowed for a foot on the touch-line as he crossed.
However, the visitors were given the ball back deep in stoppage time due to a penalty against the desperate Irish defence and in the 86th minute of the game, Willis went over for his hat-trick try to leave the home side crestfallen.