Tom Collins hat-trick leads Northampton to victory
Tom Collins scored his first senior hat-trick as Northampton ran out 38-18 winners in a ding-dong battle with Worcester at Franklin's Gardens.
The 21-year-old showed electric pace and clever feet to help Saints to a much-needed bonus point win and avenge their opening-day defeat at Worcester.
Worcester played their part in an entertaining clash with two tries of their own from Val Rapava-Ruskin and Wynand Olivier giving them a 15-12 half-time lead.
The game was still hanging in the balance until Collins scored his side's fifth try with 14 minutes remaining. Harry Mallinder, Lee Dickson and George Pisi went over for Northampton's other tries.
Both sides missed a hatful of chances to score tries in the opening quarter after Tom Heathcote had kicked Worcester into a 3-0 lead after 11 minutes.
Warriors flanker Dan Potgieter put in a shuddering tackle to stop Saints scoring, while Worcester looked dangerous with Bryce Heem bursting through Mallinder and then wing Cooper Vuna dropping an offload with the try-line begging.
A superb pirouette and step from Collins saw him sprint clear from his own 22 but last-man Heem felled the tricky winger. Saints still poured forward and Victor Matfield was denied his first try for the club by a forward pass.
Then Collins just failed to touch down Stephen Myler's grubber before the ball went dead.
Olivier thought he had scored as he burst past Tom Wood from a lineout 20 metres out only to be hauled down just short by Saints number eight Teimana Harrison.
The first try finally arrived after 28 minutes when a five-metre lineout saw Worcester fake the maul and Georgian-born loosehead Rapava-Ruskin bulldozed over Dickson on the short-side to score in the corner.
Northampton hit back straight away through a brilliant jinking run from Ken Pisi, who stepped around two defenders before sending Mallinder over from 20 metres out. Both conversions were missed to leave Saints 8-5 ahead after 32 minutes.
Then quick hands after a little break from Northampton hooker Mike Haywood saw Collins zip over to score from 30 metres.
But when Ben Foden took the mark seemingly playing for half-time from the lineout, Worcester scored with Olivier finding a big hole between the Northampton centres to race home from 35 metres and Heathcote converted.
Two minutes after the break Collins got his second thanks to a lovely pass over Chris Pennell by Luther Burrell. Myler missed his second conversion to leave it 17-15.
Pennell butchered a three-on-one by going for the line where he was stopped by Harrison before Rapava-Ruskin was held up over the line. Heathcote kicked a penalty but that was Worcester's last score as Northampton took control.
Saints kicked a penalty into the corner and the lineout drive gave them their fourth try after the TMO somehow saw through a pile of bodies to decide Dickson did ground the ball. Myler converted to make it 24-18 with 21 minutes left.
Seven minutes later Saints carried on ignoring kicks at the posts and from the resulting pressure Collins scored his hat-trick try. Jamie Gibson showed remarkable acceleration to burst through two static defenders and offload for the winger to touch down under the posts. Myler's conversion made it 31-18.
Ken Pisi saw his try disallowed because of blocking by Myler, but his brother George rounded off things with a sixth try for Northampton.