Northampton Saints blew off the cobwebs with six tries in a 40-21 win over Bedford Blues in the first of two preseason friendlies on Friday night.
An early score from the hosts at Goldington Road put Bedford ahead within the first quarter but Northampton soon found their feet, sending Rory Hutchinson, Tom Litchfield and Alex Mitchell over before the half-time whistle blew.
But despite a rapid Josh Gillespie score after the break, Bedford fought back with two tries of their own to close the gap, before Saints rounded off the scoring with a late brace of tries through Tom Collins and Fraser Dingwall.
In a breathless first quarter the sides jostled for control, exchanging early hits in the fight for ascendency; but eventually, a stray Saints pass found Blues hands, and, with space down the left, Blues skipper Rich Lane darted down the wing before offloading inside to Dean Adamson for the score under the posts.
Will Maisey would add the extras but Saints hit back quickly with two tries of their own; a good shove at the scrum gave Litchfield and Hutchinson a chance to combine in the midfield and send the latter scrambling over, before Collins broke free inside Saints’ half to send Litchfield over under the posts.
Two smart conversions from George Furbank put Saints 14-7 up, and despite more pressure from the men in Black, Green and Gold, the Bedford defence held firm until just before the half-time whistle when Mitchell darted in from the halfway line to put Saints two scores ahead at the break.
And Saints struck early after the restart too, as Tom Wood gathered a loose ball before feeding Gillespie out wide – with the winger chipping over the top and regathering to score.
Grayson – on for Furbank at the break – took over the kicking duties to put Northampton 26-7 ahead with the conversion, but the home side hit back with a clever score of their own through former Saint Alex Day.
Bedford brought the scores closer again on the hour mark, sending winger Adamson over for his second with a fast-footed break down the right.
A blistering turn of pace from Collins put Saints back on the front foot though, with the winger racing in from 60 metres out to score in the corner before Grayson added the touchline conversion to bring the scoreline to 33-21 in Saints’ favour.
And Northampton would add a sixth and final try before the final whistle, as Grayson darted through to set Dingwall free under the sticks before adding the conversion from the tee.