Saints’ fitness, power and pace ultimately proved to be the difference in overcoming a dogged and determined Worcester outfit at Franklin’s Gardens.
Tom Collins grabbed the headlines with a hat trick that earned him the Travis Perkins man of the match award, with Harry Mallinder, Lee Dickson and George Pisi grabbing the other tries on their way to the full five points.
But looking at the result alone will tell only half the story, as for an hour this contest was very much in the balance as Worcester’s two first half tries not only gave them the lead at the break but had nerves very much frayed among the Saints Nation.
Saints’ intent to keep the tempo up was clear in the opening exchanges. Collins had a break down the left wing, stopped only by a Bryce Heem tap-tackle, and a pair of penalties were sent to the left and right corner respectively.
Both times Worcester defended the drive well, and while on the second occasion Saints did work an overlap on the left Ken Pisi’s tapped pass was intercepted by Chris Pennell, who sent the play downfield with a kick.
The chase eventually won a penalty, and the first three points of the day from Tom Heathcote, and it would set the pattern for much of the opening 40.
Worcester’s defence, especially of the driving maul, was solid, but it was the way they scored their two tries which would have provoked plenty of discussion in the home dressing room during the break.
Prop Val Rapava Ruskin finished off a lineout move down the blindside a little too easily for comfort, and centre Wynand Olivier - who had been denied after similar imagination after a throw earlier on - scythed through the 10-12 channel to score the visitors’ second in the final play of the half.
However these tries sandwiched a pair of good scores for Saints which would point how things would pan out in the final quarter.
Saints’ faithful had been baying for an offside after Jaba Bregvadze had run into a Lee Dickson pass. But play went on, and 45 seconds later Worcester were perhaps preferring that the Georgian had been penalised after all.
The clearance kick went to Collins, who in turn found Ben Foden and then Ken Pisi. The Samoan turned on the afterburners to take him through a dog-legged defence, before straightening and finding Mallinder for the score.
Then Foden turned provider for Collins, straight running and soft handling putting the winger clear for a try confirmed by the TMO, who ruled that James Craig’s apparent neck-roll had instead been a legitimate grab of the shirt.
Trailing by three points at half-time Saints came out firing as they headed down the hill. As with the opening 40 they sent an early penalty to the corner, and this time it paid off. The shift drive was strong, forcing Dan Sanderson to bring the maul down illegally. Playing with the advantage Saints sent the ball down the line and Luther Burrell’s long pass found Collins in the clear for his second.
Heathcote did reward a spell of Worcester pressure with a penalty to take his side in front, but the three points was precious little payback as Saints’ defence held out the considerable weight that was thrown at it time and again.
Just before the hour Saints were back ahead and with a bonus point, Dickson at the bottom of a driving maul after another penalty had been sent to the corner. And seven minutes later the contest was just about done and dusted as Collins completed his hat trick.
His supporting line of a Jamie Gibson break was excellent, but credit should be paid to Myler, who spotted a possible overlap on a short blindside and told Dickson to send play that way instead of into the traffic on the openside.
Ken Pisi did have a try ruled out, Myler being ruled to have obstructed Na’ama Leleimalefaga in the build-up. But if anything showed the momentum shift it was a Foden long kick that sat up obligingly five metres out rather than bouncing harmlessly over the Worcester whitewash.
And there was another favourable bounce which brought the sixth and final score, Collins kicking ahead, Tom Kessell collecting the bobbling ball and showing good strength to drive over the gain line and feed George Pisi for the straightforward finish.
SAINTS Foden; K Pisi, Burrell, Mallinder, Collins; Myler, Dickson (capt); A Waller, Haywood, Brookes, Craig, Matfield, Gibson, Wood, Harrison
Subs - Marshall, E Waller, Denman, Dickinson, Fisher, Kessell, Hanrahan, G Pisi
WORCESTER Pennell; Heem, Olivier, Mills, Vuna; Heathcote, Hougaard; Rapava Ruskin, Bregvadze, Schonert, O’Callaghan, Barry, Potgieter, Kirwan, Van Velze (capt)
Subs - Annett, Leleimalefaga, Johnston, Sanderson, Dowson, Baldwin, Lamb, Symons
REFEREE Matthew Carley
1min WORCS Miss pen Heathcote
10mins WORCS Pen Heathcote 0-3
29mins WORCS Try Rapava Ruskin 0-8
31mins SAINTS Try Mallinder 5-8
36mins SAINTS Try Collins Con Myler 12-8
39mins SAINTS Try Olivier Con Heathcote 12-15
HALF-TIME SAINTS 12 WORCESTER 15
41mins SAINTS Try Collins 17-15
52mins WORCS Pen Heathcote 17-18
57mins SAINTS Try Dickson Con Myler 24-18
65mins SAINTS Try Collins Con Myler 31-18
77mins SAINTS Try G Pisi Con Hanrahan 38-18
FULL-TIME SAINTS 38 WORCESTER 18