Tom Collins’ try double helped Northampton Saints seal a stunning 42-22 victory over London Irish at the Brentford Community Stadium.
The fleet-footed winger opened the scoring for the men in Black, Green and Gold, with Rory Hutchinson adding another before the break to send Saints into the sheds 14-8 ahead.
Northampton then really clicked through the gears early in the second half, with a penalty try preceding scores from Alex Mitchell, Fraser Dingwall and another from Collins to wrap up a resounding Gallagher Premiership victory which keeps Saints firmly in the hunt for the top four.
Both sides looked to run the ball quickly in a sun-soaked west London, and while Courtney Lawes and Sam Matavesi won two early turnovers for Saints, Irish opened the scoring in the sixth minute as they caught Northampton narrow and spun the ball out wide for Ollie Hassell-Collins to score.
Paddy Jackson missed the conversion but made amends four minutes later after Mitchell was unlucky to see his 50-22 attempt bounce at a right angle and go dead to hand the hosts field position. From there, they won a scrum penalty and the Exiles’ No.10 made it 8-0.
Saints responded in the 14th minute as a searing break involving George Furbank and Courtnall Skosan took Northampton into the 22, but while Dingwall attempted a cross-field kick to Juarno Augustus, Irish regathered and called the mark to clear.
But after 22 minutes Northampton won a breakdown penalty, and after Dan Biggar sent the kick into touch, two big carries from Lewis Ludlam and Api Ratuniyarawa laid the platform for Hutchinson to send a pass over the top for Collins to score in the corner.
Biggar landed the conversion from the touchline to make it 8-7, but Saints seized all the momentum with another try just two minutes later.
Ratuniyarawa burst through a ruck and found Mitchell outside him; the scrum-half carried into the 22, before Saints recycled the ball and Hutchinson wriggled his way over the whitewash – with Biggar adding another touchline conversion to send Northampton 14-8 ahead.
The hosts turned down two shots at goal to kick to the corner before the break, but those decisions came back to haunt them as Northampton twice repelled the maul, and a yellow card for a dangerous clear out for Rob Simmons added insult to injury on 37 minutes.
Things went from bad to worse for Irish as, early in the second half, a huge rolling maul from Saints trundled towards the line – but Nick Phipps came in at the side to stop Matavesi grounding the ball and scoring, earning him a yellow card and Northampton a penalty try in the process.
With just 13 Exiles players now on the field, Saints took full advantage by spinning the ball wide and finding space for Furbank and Skosan to gallop down the right touchline, and the Springbok winger’s final pass was inch-perfect to set up Mitchell to score under the posts on 48 minutes.
Moments later Saints were over again as a perfectly executed lineout move saw Hutchinson tip on to midfield partner Dingwall, who scored under the posts untouched by the Irish defence.
Biggar’s conversion made it 35-8, and with a commanding lead Northampton took the opportunity to unload their bench – Nick Auterac, Tommy Freeman, Tom James, Alex Moon and Conor Carey all entered the action before the hour mark, while Tom Litchfield, Mike Haywood and Alex Coles followed shortly after.
On 62 minutes, Collins grabbed his second with a clever chip-and-chase after James and Hutchinson exchanged passes neatly, using the advantage well after Furbank’s pass was knocked down.
The final quarter of the game saw Phipps add two consolation scores for Irish as Furbank was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on, but with a bonus-point win in the bag, Northampton could toast a fine afternoon’s work ahead of the visit of Bristol Bears to cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens next weekend.