Northampton Saints blew Newcastle Falcons away on Friday evening with a ten-try win which put Phil Dowson’s side within a whisker of qualification for the Gallagher Premiership semi-finals.
Two Tom Collins tries set Saints on their way to a 28-5 lead at half-time, with Northampton wrapping up the bonus point courtesy of two more scores from Alex Mitchell and Juarno Augustus, while Fin Smith nailed all four conversion attempts.
The visitors then hit the accelerator again after the interval, as Paul Hill, Smith, Mitchell, Sam Graham, Tommy Freeman and David Ribbans all crossed the whitewash to set up a record-breaking away triumph in Newcastle.
Saints now must sit and wait to learn their play-off fate, as London Irish – the only side who can now beat them to fourth place – take on Saracens and then Exeter Chiefs needing to win both matches to progress.
Falcons opened the scoring after an impressive jinking run from Mateo Carreras put them on the front foot, and as the ball got moved through the hands to the right wing, Adam Radwan was there to dive into the corner.
Brett Connon’s conversion drifted wide of the uprights, and Northampton took just two minutes to respond. Lewis Ludlam made the initial break down the right, and after a fantastic pass out the back from Hill, Mitchell darted through a gap around the back of a ruck to score under the posts.
Smith’s conversion made it 7-5, and Collins’ sensational solo effort extended their advantage after 15 minutes – after intercepting a Matias Orlando pass, the wing kicked forward before hacking on again and winning the race to touch down in the corner.
Again, Smith converted, this time from right on the touchline, and Northampton’s lead was nine points.
The Falcons had an opportunity with 23 minutes played when Courtney Lawes was harshly penalised at a breakdown on the edge of the 22, but a big hit from Fraser Dingwall after Newcastle kicked the resulting penalty to the corner dislodged the ball, and George Furbank was able to clear.
The fullback got back remarkably moments later to deny Carreras, after the devastating winger again somehow weaved through Saints’ line and chipped forward into the in-goal area.
Furbank then turned provider after a searing move upfield from Saints, passing to Collins at the perfect moment for the wing to scream down the left touchline and score his second try of the evening under extreme pressure from Connon.
Smith made it three from three from the tee, before Mitchell’s superb tap tackle on Radwan denied the England winger a certain try in the corner seven minutes before the break.
Northampton wrapped up the try bonus point with the clock in the red; Augustus barging his way over again in the left corner with Saints moving the ball through the hands beautifully, and once more Smith’s touchline conversion split the posts to make it 28-5 at the break.
Hill ensured Saints picked up where they left off at the start of the second half, popping up to crash over and finish off a fine team move which saw Northampton work the ball upfield from inside their own half.
When Carreras was penalised and yellow-carded for a late shot on Ludlam at a ruck, the visitors made Newcastle pay with their sixth try of the night as a bust and offload from Freeman released Smith – who ended up with a personal 21-point haul – to score under the posts.
Northampton were really ticking now and when Collins burst through a gap on halfway, he drew the last defender and threw a 20-metre pass to Mitchell who had a simple finish.
There were still 20 minutes remaining when Saints broke the 50-point mark, with replacement Graham bouncing the last defender to rumble into the corner after Rory Hutchinson danced free.
The rout continued five minutes later as more slick handing from Northampton put Freeman over in the corner, before finally Ribbans rounded off the scoring as he drove through a couple of tackles to score from short range following a big carry for Lukhan Salakaia-Loto.
Saints now face a Leicester Tigers XV next weekend in what will be their final match of the season at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens – and Dowson’s side will hope that game will serve as the perfect warm-up for the Premiership’s semi-finals should other results go their way before the conclusion of the regular season.
FALCONS: Obatoyinbo, Radwan, Moroni, Orlando, Carreras, Connon, Young (c); Mulipola, Blamire, Tampin, Peterson, de Chaves, Rubiolo, Lockwood, Chick
Replacements: Cade, Brocklebank, Kenny, van der Walt, Fearns, Stuart, Penny, Tait
SAINTS: Furbank, Collins, Dingwall, Hutchinson, Freeman, F Smith, Mitchell; A Waller, S Matavesi, Hill, Ribbans, Moon, Lawes, Ludlam (c), Augustus
Replacements: Cruse, E Waller, Prowse, Salakaia-Loto, Scott-Young, Graham, James, Litchfield