Ollie Sleightholme dotted down four times as Northampton Saints swept Worcester Warriors aside in the second half at Sixways, running in nine tries in total to keep themselves firmly in top-four contention.
Scores from George Furbank and Sleightholme handed the visitors a 15-7 half-time lead, but Saints were irresistible after the break.
Sleightholme added three more to his tally with Alex Mitchell, Piers Francis, and David Ribbans all crossing too in a blistering Northampton burst, and a Penalty Try was also awarded to the visitors following a searing break from prop Paul Hill.
Saints were forced into a late change before kick-off, with fly-half Dan Biggar ruled out of the clash and James Grayson coming into the No.10 jersey to replace him – but it was the visitors who shot out of the blocks it Sixways regardless.
In the fourth minute Mitchell’s perfectly-timed offload found Furbank who sliced through the Warriors line to score in the corner.
Nick Isiekwe was called into action shortly after to make a try-saving tackle and stop Perry Humphreys from scoring in the corner after Ollie Lawrence had made some ground up the middle.
But as Saints looked to respond up the other end of the field after Sleightholme had been put into space by Mitchell, the hosts scrambled well and forced a turnover of their own with Teimana Harrison held up.
Worcester then grabbed their first points of the afternoon in the 18th minute as, with quick ball off the back of a scrum, Billy Searle flung it wide for Chris Ashton to score in the right corner – the fly-half’s touchline conversion put the hosts 7-5 ahead.
Northampton had to cope with further injuries as both Rory Hutchinson and try-scorer Furbank were forced off early on, bringing Fraser Dingwall and Tommy Freeman into the action, but Grayson put them back in front in the 25th minute with a penalty.
Harrison and Sleightholme latched over the ball to force two crucial turnovers in their own territory as Worcester looked to turn up the pressure, and Warriors threatened again when Ashton could not touch Searle’s grubber-kick down in the right corner.
But on the stroke of half-time Saints struck a big blow as they got the ball through the hands down the right, and Sleightholme turned on the gas to beat both Humphreys and Searle to the corner – Grayson’s sweetly-struck conversion gave his side a 15-7 advantage heading into the sheds.
Just three minutes into the second half Saints struck again; Tom Collins releasing Freeman and the young fullback’s left-footed grubber was perfectly weighted for Mitchell to score to the left of the posts.
And that was just an early sign of what we yet to come for Northampton as the men in Black, Green and Gold were ruthless after Ashton saw red for an illegal clearout on Freeman – despite also briefly losing Harrison for a yellow card of his own.
Sleightholme scored his second after gassing Lawrence on the outside following an effective lineout drive from Saints, before the visitors wrapped up the win on the hour mark when Tom Collins charged down Chris Pennell’s clearance – the ball found its way to Freeman, whose outrageous around-the-back offload was followed up by a basketball pass from Grayson to give Francis a simple finish in the corner.
Next came a Penalty Try for Saints after a rampaging run from Hill; Saints fizzed the ball right and Mikey Haywood’s attempted pass was slapped down by Francois Venter with Tom James waiting to score – the winger saw yellow and referee Andrew Jackson went under the posts.
With Warriors down to 13 now and Harrison back into the action, Northampton had all the space in the world and Ribbans scored following a lung-busting passage of play which saw Dingwall eventually break through a gap and send the big second row over.
Sleightholme’s hat-trick and fourth scores came in quick succession in the 76th and 78th minutes, with James assisting both after offloading nicely.
There was still just about time for Worcester to notch a consolation score through Pennell in the dying seconds, but the resounding 48-point win for Northampton shows they are in fine fettle heading into the European break.