Northampton make flying start
Northampton made a powerful start to their LV= Cup campaign with a resounding 37-23 victory over Newcastle Falcons at Franklin's Gardens.
Tries from Tom Collins (two), Teimana Harrison, Mike Haywood and Howard Packman secured the win for Saints while fly-half Will Hooley contributed two penalties and three conversions.
Newcastle posted tries through Tom Catterick and substitute Juan Pablo Socino while the flawless kicking of Rory Clegg kept the Falcons in the contest.
Northampton fielded an almost completely new starting line-up after their 34-6 Champions Cup victory over the Ospreys. Saints boss Jim Mallinder made 14 changes to his side, with lock Christian Day the sole survivor from last Saturday's rout.
Newcastle director of rugby Dean Richards also took the opportunity to freshen things up as he made seven personnel changes to the side that defeated Newport Gwent Dragons in the Challenge Cup.
Alesana Tuilagi returned to the Falcons side but the Samoan's 27th-minute sin-binning would ultimately prove costly to his team.
Newcastle came firing out of the blocks when number eight Uili Kolo'ofai burst through a gap around the fringes of the ruck. The Tongan offloaded to scrum-half Mike Blair who fed Andy Saull and the openside flanker fired a slick pass to the onrushing Catterick to glide over for an early score.
Clegg added the extras to give the visitors an early 7-0 lead with only four minutes on the clock.
Northampton's reply was almost immediate with full-back Collins slicing through the Falcons defence to race over from 30 metres after great recycling in the build-up. Hooley tagged on the conversion to level matters at 7-7.
Two Clegg efforts sandwiched one from Hooley to leave the Falcons leading 13-10. The Falcons were well in the contest until Tuilagi's illegal tackle on Collins led to the Samoan being sent to the sin-bin by referee Andrew Jackson.
Saints made full use of their advantage and scored two tries to punish the visitors. First, flanker Harrison burrowed over from a powerful driving maul before hooker Haywood glided over after collecting an audacious pass from Day.
Tuilagi returned to the action to find his side trailing 22-13, though Clegg slotted a penalty just before half-time.
Saints increased their lead after the break when Phil Dowson made a break in midfield and fed the onrushing Collins to race away for his second try of the night and bring up the bonus point for the home side.
Trailing 29-16, the Falcons refused to give in and registered a late score with replacement centre Socino powering over from close range in the 74th minute to get his side into bonus-point territory - but another Hooley penalty and a late Packman touchdown ensured a Saints victory.