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Northampton storm to victory

Northampton hardly broke sweat as they stayed firmly on course to reach the European Champions Cup quarter-finals by thumping Treviso 67-0 at Franklin's Gardens.

The Saints, with their juggernaut wing George North in destructive form on his first appearance since being concussed during Wales' clash against New Zealand three weeks ago, had a bonus point wrapped up inside 35 minutes.

And it proved to be their record European win, smashing a 68-21 success against another Italian side - Overmach Parma - during the 2006-07 season.

An early penalty try was followed by a short-range North touchdown before scintillating flowing moves led to scores for scrum-half Kahn Fotuali'i and wing Ken Pisi, with two Stephen Myler conversions leaving Pool Five whipping boys Treviso 24 points adrift at half-time.

North, his leg strapped, went off early in the second period - his departure looked precautionary - but there was no let-up from Northampton as further tries followed for George Pisi, Ben Foden, two more by Ken Pisi and a 13-minute hat-trick for substitute forward Samu Manoa, while Myler finished with four conversions and full-back James Wilson two.

English champions Saints' 11-try haul took them to 15 points in the group, and victories in their final two pool games next month away to the Ospreys and at home against Racing Metro will guarantee a last-eight place.

Northampton strengthened their quest to retain control of Pool Five by recalling a number of their international stars, including North, plus the England forward trio of Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes and Tom Wood.

And after just 12 minutes an awesome display of Northampton scrummaging power led to French referee Pascal Gauzere awarding a penalty try that Myler converted.

Treviso conceded seven penalties in the opening 15 minutes, and although Gauzere initially opted against awarding any yellow cards, the visitors found themselves under relentless pressure that resulted in a simple finish for North.

It was North's fifth try of the current European campaign, and came following impressive approach work by number eight Phil Dowson and Fotuali'i, before Saints rounded off a one-sided opening quarter by conjuring a stunning 80-metre score.

Wing Ken Pisi, Wilson and George Pisi were all heavily involved, and Fotuali'i provided a spectacular finish by turning Treviso full-back Jayden Hayward inside out to put Northampton out of sight.

And the bonus point try arrived six minutes before half-time after North ran powerfully from his own half, then without breaking stride he slipped a one-handed offload to flanker Calum Clark, whose pass sent Ken Pisi sprinting over unopposed for a 24-0 lead.

The try came with Treviso temporarily down to 14 men after lock Marco Fuser was sin-binned, and Gauzere found his patience tested as the visitors began to infringe at regular intervals in the face of unremitting set-piece pressure.

George Pisi crossed within four minutes of the restart from close range, then Wilson's angled run created an opening for Ken Pisi's second score.

Lawes was denied a try when the television match official ruled the giant Saints lock had made a double movement.

The closing stages belonged to Manu as the United States international claimed two tries in four minutes after he replaced Clark, while Treviso collected another yellow card when substitute prop Cosma Garfagnoli received his marching orders for a technical offence.

Manoa then effortlessly completed his hat-trick at the base of an advancing Northampton scrum, and Ken Pisi also delivered a treble before North's replacement Foden added the final touchdown during a blistering finish.

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