Northampton Saints kept their top-four hopes alive and kicking with a superb first-half blitz to blow Worcester Warriors away in the final home clash of the 2018/19 season.
Equalling their record winning margin against Sixways outfit, Saints were dominant at Franklin’s Gardens with Taqele Naiyaravoro’s brace and tries from Luther Burrell and Tom Wood securing the bonus point on the half-hour mark.
Reece Marshall added some gloss to the result in the second half, with fly-half Dan Biggar putting on a masterclass from the tee in swirling conditions as he swept six kicks from six through the posts.
Victory against Worcester not only keeps hopes of a top-four finish alive, but confirms the return of Heineken Champions Cup rugby to Northampton for the 2019/20 season.
Saints were on top from the word go, and their control was rewarded to rapturous celebrations as the departing Burrell beat two defenders and slid across the line for a score in his final game at Franklin’s Gardens – the 31st of his Northampton career.
Warriors’ fly-half Duncan Weir looked to reduce the deficit with a penalty but his effort sailed just wide, and Saints were able to restart quickly and work back up the field.
The hosts attacked and after kicking for the corner, a Reece Marshall knock-on halted their efforts just metres short of the line, but Northampton were not waiting much longer for their next score.
A well-worked move saw the men in Black, Green and Gold advance again, and despite a bouncing pass coming his way, Naiyaravoro expertly recovered the ball and beat three men to the corner – with Biggar pinging a superb conversion over from the touchline.
Worcester threatened their first score as Chris Pennell’s offload and Ben Te’o’s darting run got them as close as they had been to Saints’ line all game, before a penalty in the ruck was awarded and converted by Weir.
Saints reacted well, returning to Warriors’ 22, and a penalty for hands in the ruck saw Francois Hougaard sent to the sin-bin.
Naiyaravoro was making mincemeat of Worcester’s defenders and his efforts were rewarded with a second score of the afternoon in the 27th minute as he was brought into the action from a lineout play.
Saints then got the bonus-point courtesy of Tom Wood’s third try of the season, as relentless offloading proved too much for Warriors to handle, taking the home side 28-3 up just beyond the half-hour mark.
The half came to a close with yet another score, but this time it was Worcester crossing the whitewash; Te’o barged his way over and the conversion from Weir reduced Northampton’s lead to 18 points at the end of the first half.
Saints started the second half like the first, camped in the Worcester 22, and it almost led to a fifth score but Ahsee Tuala’s offload to Tom Collins did not quite come off.
After Dan Biggar slotted a penalty to take his side three converted scores clear at 31-10, an electrifying run from Cobus Reinach looked to have found another seven points for Saints.
But impressive defence from Weir managed to slow the play enough for Warriors to recover and prevent the score.
The sixth try eventually came though when Reece Marshall bundled over the line at the back of a rolling maul, giving the men in Black, Green and gold a 28-point lead with Biggar’s conversion.
Saints then rang the changes in the final 20 minutes with Devante Onojaife making his Gallagher Premiership debut, and while Worcester looked to make inroads into the lead, Northampton were resolute in defence.
The score stayed 38-10 until the final whistle, where the Club’s supporters were invited onto the pitch to say a fond farewell to the players leaving at the end of the season, and toast this campaign which now comes to a dramatic climax at Exeter Chiefs in a fortnight with a semi-final spot on the line for Saints.