After the pre-match fireworks and celebrations surrounding the formal opening of the Barwell Stand the Saints team stepped up and put in one of the best home attacking performances of the season, running in five tries to one against London Irish.
Saints had the potent blend of power, pace and patience when in possession, choosing their options wisely whether sending the ball to the corner for the forwards to keep it tight or putting it through the hands close to their own line when the opportunity presented itself.
Still, after an opening 12 minutes in which London Irish had competed well the Saints had a helping hand when Halani Aulika was sin binned for cynically preventing Lee Dickson from making metres after quickly tapping a penalty on halfway.
They escaped the initial chance, Stephen Myler’s ambitious touchfinder staying agonisingly infield, but five minutes into the period the team was over the line, James Craig being driven over from a lineout.
And with the final play before Aulika returned the pack was at it again, this time provoking the Exiles to come in from the side and referee Tim Wigglesworth to award a penalty try.
Alex Waller crashed over for try number three just before half-time, but while it was the forwards who were dominating the scoring it was the backs who were catching the eye.
Luther Burrell continued his form from the Stoop, his powerful arcing runs asking questions of the visitors’ defence whenever he got the ball. James Wilson showed some good touches in his first start of the season, Jamie Elliott was as industrious as ever and Ben Foden cut some lovely lines from full back.
Meanwhile Harry Mallinder was a neat foil for Myler, with Dickson setting the tempo from half-back. And it was the skipper who put things to bed in the opening 10 minutes of the second half, sending a well weighted chip up the right touchline for Elliott to chase and touch down before rounding off a good candidate for try of the season two minutes later.
With Saints having collected the kick off and set up a ruck, London Irish looked to be expecting the safe kick ahead and set up their defensive line accordingly. But with the sweeper coming around the corner on a blitz there was space behind the breakdown, enough to tempt Tom Wood to burst through the middle into wide open space.
Burrell was in support, as was Jamie Gibson, and Dickson dived over by the posts to bring another 15,000-plus crowd to its feet and seal his own man of the match bubbly in the process.
With the bonus point in the bag and half-an-hour still to play, the replacements were given decent game time, including hooker Reece Marshall coming on for his Aviva Premiership debut.
To their credit London Irish refused to fold, and ended the second half as they started it, setting up camp deep in home territory, eventually being rewarded with a late try while both JJ Hanrahan and Gibson were both in the sin bin.
Still, by then it was too late to take the gloss off what had been a good day at Franklin’s Gardens, on and off the pitch.
SAINTS Foden; Elliott, Burrell, Mallinder, Wilson; Myler, Dickson (capt); A Waller, Haywood, Brookes, Craig, Day, Gibson, Wood, Dickinson
Subs - Marshall, E Waller, Denman, Matfield, Harrison, Kessell, Hanrahan, G Pisi
LONDON IRISH Fenby; Ojo, Mulchrone, Williams, Hearn; Geraghty, Steele; Court, Paice, Aulika, Symons, Lloyd, Sinclair, Narraway (capt), McCusker
Subs - Ellis, Smallbone, Halavatau, Nagle, Treviranus, Allinson, Brophy-Clews, Waldouck
REFEREE Tim Wigglesworth
12mins IRISH Yellow card Aulika
17mins SAINTS Try Craig Con Myler 7-0
22mins SAINTS Try Penalty Con Myler 14-0
33mins IRISH Miss pen Geraghty
37mins SAINTS Try A Waller Con Myler 21-0
HALF-TIME SAINTS 21 LONDON IRISH 0
46mins SAINTS Try Elliott Con Myler 28-0
48mins SAINTS Try Dickson Con Myler 35-0
68mins SAINTS Yellow card Hanrahan
75mins SAINTS Yellow card Gibson
76mins IRISH Try Paice Con Geraghty 35-7
FULL-TIME SAINTS 35 LONDON IRISH