Ruthless Saints march on
Northampton extended their lead at the top of the Aviva Premiership with a 35-23 demolition of second placed London Irish before a capacity crowd at Franklin's Gardens.
The game was virtually over as a contest by half-time as the impressive Saints blew away the Irish with a 24-point burst in the 17 minutes prior to the interval.
On a memorable night for the Saints the only negative were injuries. Props Soane Tonga'uiha and Brian Mujati limped off and Paul Diggin was carried off on a stretcher late on, which disrupted Saints' play and allowed the Exiles a flattering final scoreline.
London Irish were ahead within the first minute. Stephen Myler's clearance kick was charged down and the ball was recycled by the Irish forwards to enable Ryan Lamb to drop a neat 30-metre goal. The lead was extended three minutes later when Lamb dropped another goal, this time from straight in front, 15 metres out from the Northampton line.
Back came the Saints and when Irish were penalised Myler kicked a 30 metre penalty. Then after sustained scrummage pressure from Northampton young wing Jamie Elliott squeezed in at the corner. Myler's excellent conversion from the touchline gave the home side a 10-6 lead after 23 minutes.
A minute later the Saints were further ahead, Brett Sharman broke ahead from a maul inside his own half, kicked ahead and Diggin easily won the race for the touchdown, which again Myler converted with another excellent kick.
Lamb then kicked his first penalty for the Irish but that was soon nullified by one from Myler before the Saints effectively sealed the match with the last movement of the first half.
The irrepressible Tonga'uiha slipped a pass away to Jon Clarke for the centre to race 20 metres and past a weak tackling attempt from Delon Armitage for the try which Myler converted to make it 27-9 at the interval.
Scrum-half Ryan Powell ensured a bonus point for his side when he broke away from a scrum 30 metres out to send Diggin over for the try which Myler was unable to convert.
Following the loss of Diggin, London Irish's best player Chris Hala'ufia, drove over for their first try which Lamb converted. Topsy Ojo also crossed after intercepting a loose pass to run 50 metres to score and although Lamb converted it was too little and too late, with Shane Geraghty ensuring Saints had the final say with a penalty.