Eight-try Northampton Saints blew Welsh rivals Dragons away with an outstanding attacking display at Franklin’s Gardens to move second in Pool One of the Europan Challenge Cup.
Two doubles from Luther Burrell and Taqele Naiyaravoro secured a second European win of the season for Chris Boyd’s men.
Man-of-the-match Api Ratuniyarawa, Ollie Sleightholme, James Fish and Alex Mitchell also crossed the whitewash for the hosts in what was a stellar showing – with Saints scoring four tries in just 11 second-half minutes to seal a crucial bonus point in their hunt for a spot in the knock-out stages of the competition.
💬 “It was nice to be back out there today, especially at home.”@RoryJHutchinson returned from a long injury layoff to help Saints to victory over Dragons - he joined us live on Facebook post-match— Northampton Saints 😇 (@SaintsRugby) December 8, 2018
Watch more 👉🏼https://t.co/RQcNdBROYk pic.twitter.com/NwSH9KnW2R
Burrell struck with just two minutes on the clock, slamming the ball down on the left flank following some good phase play by Saints – with big hits from No.8 Teimana Harrison and Ratuniyarawa leaving the Welsh side stunned in the opening exchanges.
Dan Biggar’s conversion attempt drifted just wide, but a huge break by Jamie Gibson kicked the momentum up a notch, and Sleightholme looked to be through in the corner only for a last-gasp tackle by Dragons keeping the score at 5-0.
Ratuniyarawa was next to cross the whitewash from close range, as a monstrous effort tore through two Dragons defenders, and Biggar’s extras put Saints 12-0 ahead.
The Newport outfit kept the deficit at 12 for 20 minutes as they built some possession and territory, but Saints’ excellent defence kept them at bay – and with the Dragons agitated, Northampton struck again just before the break.
Andrew Kellaway was unlucky not to hold on to Biggar’s huge crossfield kick to score, but moments later an outstanding rolling maul effort saw hooker Fish emerge underneath all the bodies to score the game’s third try – and Biggar did the honours to make it 19-0 at the break.
The visitors caught Saints cold at the start of the second half, with Adam Warren latching onto a grubber kick to run it behind the sticks and give his side some hope.
But Burrell’s fine form in the first half tumbled over into the second, as he instantly replied with the bonus-point score in front of a jubilant Barwell Stand, getting a good run up and breaking through the Dragons line.
Naiyaravoro was next to cross; after a slicing counter from Sleightholme, Saints got quick ball and slung it out to the big winger who stretched for the corner well under some pressure from the Dragons defence.
And straight from the kick-off Mitchell scored again for Northampton, with Harrison doing brilliantly on the touchline to first gather a loose pass and then break the tackle to offload inside for the pacey scrum-half.
Naiyaravoro doubled his tally after Rory Hutchinson battled through a couple of tackles to break 30 metres up the field, with the winger’s spectacular front-flip over the line a finish worthy of any highlight reel.
Nick Cudd crossed for a late consolation for Dragons, but there was still time for Sleightholme to put further gloss on the win with a blistering sprint along the right flank securing his side’s eighth try and rounding off a superb day for Saints.
Northampton’s double over Dragons sees them leapfrog the Welsh side into second place in their Challenge Cup pool, and Saints will now be looking to repeat the trick against Romanian side Timisoara Saracens.