Northampton extended their lead at the top of the Aviva Premiership table with a 35-23 demolition of second placed London Irish.
Northampton extended their lead at the top of the Aviva Premiership table with a 35-23 demolition of second placed London Irish before a capacity crowd at Franklin's Gardens.
The game was virtually over as a contest by half-time as the impressive Saints blew away the Irish with a 24-point burst in the 17 minutes prior to the interval.
On a memorable night for the Saints the only negative were injuries. Props Soane Tonga'uiha and Brian Mujati limped off and Paul Diggin was carried off on a stretcher late on, which disrupted Saints' play and allowed the Exiles a flattering final scoreline.
London Irish were ahead within the first minute. Stephen Myler's clearance kick was charged down and the ball was recycled by the Irish forwards to enable Ryan Lamb to drop a neat 30-metre goal.
The lead was extended three minutes later when Lamb dropped another goal, this time from straight in front, 15 metres out from the Northampton line.
Back came the Saints and when Irish were penalised Myler kicked a 30 metre penalty.
However the Irish continued to have the better of the opening exchanges and Lamb should have extended the Irish lead but his third drop goal attempt within the first 10 minutes was a weak affair.
Lamb's miss was the catalyst for Northampton to build up a period of pressure and the home side came close to scoring on a number of occasions, the nearest attempt being Christian Day's lunge for the line – but the lock lost the ball in the process.
Minutes later young wing Jamie Elliott produced a stunning burst down the flank but he was hauled down a metre short of the try line.
Elliott was not to be denied though and after sustained scrummage pressure from the Saints the wing squeezed in at the corner. Myler's excellent conversion from the touchline gave the home side a 10-6 lead after 23 minutes.
A minute later the Saints were further ahead, Brett Sharman broke ahead from a maul inside his own half, kicked ahead and Diggin easily won the race for the touchdown, which again Myler converted with another excellent kick.
Lamb then kicked his first penalty for the Irish but that was soon nullified by one from Myler before the Saints effectively sealed the match with the last movement of the first half.
The irrepressible Tonga'uiha slipped a pass away to Jon Clarke for the centre to race 20 metres and past a weak tackling attempt from Delon Armitage for the try which Myler converted to make it 27-9 at the interval.
The visitors showed more commitment after the restart but Ryan Powell was unlucky not to pick up the Saints' fourth try when he brought down five metres out after a sharp break.
However, the scrum-half ensured a bonus point for his side when he broke away from a scrum 30 metres out to send Diggin over for the try which Myler was unable to convert.
Following the loss of Diggin, London Irish's best player Chris Hala'ufia, drove over for their first try which Lamb converted.
Topsy Ojo also crossed after intercepting a loose pass to run 50 metres to score and although Lamb converted it was too little and too late, with Shane Geraghty ensuring Saints had the final say with a penalty.
Northampton: 15 Greig Tonks, 14 Jamie Elliott, 13 Jon Clarke, 12 James Downey, 11 Paul Diggin, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Ryan Powell, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Phil Dowson (c), 5 Christian Day, 4 Mark Sorenson, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Brett Sharman, 1 Soane Tonga'uiha.
Replacements: 16 Andy Long, 17 Regardt Dreyer, 18 Tom Mercey, 19 Calum Clark, 20 Mark Easter, 21 Stuart Commins, 22 Shane Geraghty, 23 Bruce Reihana.
London Irish: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Topsy Ojo, 13 Elvis Seveali'i, 12 Daniel Bowden, 11 Jonathan Joseph, 10 Ryan Lamb, 9 Paul Hodgson, 8 Chris Hala'ufia, 7 Steffon Armitage, 6 Kieran Roche, 5 Bob Casey, 4 Nick Kennedy, 3 Paulica Ion, 2 James Buckland, 1 Clarke Dermody (c).
Replacements: 16 David Paice, 17 Alex Corbisiero, 18 Faan Rautenbach, 19 Matt Garvey, 20 Richard Thorpe, 21 Marcus Watson, 22 Chris Malone, 23 Darren Allinson.
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth