The England players have found their feet immediately after the Rugby World Cup as they showed their class for Saracens and Northampton Saints on Sunday.
Champions Sarries, who struggled without their internationals earlier in the season, are very much back in form as they hammered Newcastle Falcons 50-12 in the Premiership.
Red Rose hooker Theo Dan – in for the rested Jamie George – led the way with a brace, while fellow World Cup semi-finalist Elliot Daly also got on the scoresheet.
The likes of Maro Itoje and Owen Farrell were absent, but Dan and Daly stepped up to help the Londoners to a dominant win.
Saracens produced a wonderful display to dismiss Newcastle Falcons and gain a bonus point in a 50-12 rout at Kingston Park.
A double from Dan, combined with tries for Daly and Alex Lewington overturned an early effort from Sebastian de Chaves to give the away side a 28-7 lead at the interval.
Bryan Byrne dotted down to give the Falcons hope, but a trio of tries from Tom Willis, Juan Martin Gonzalez and Manu Vunipola snuffed out any thoughts of a comeback.
The hosts have now lost their opening five league games, while their opponents registered their third successive Premiership win.
The visitors lost Callum Hunter-Hill to injury in the warm-up – with Ollie Stonham stepping up to start in his place – while former Saracens prop Eduardo Bello made his first league start for the Falcons.
It was the hosts who made the early ground and were rewarded in the fifth minute when De Chaves powered over to give Brett Connon a simple conversion opportunity.
After a bright opening, things began to unravel for the north-east side when Elliott Obatoyinbo was sin-binned after 12 minutes for a deliberate knock-on.
Dan touched down shortly after from a maul on the left and Alex Lozowski added the extras to level the scores.
The home side were able to fend off the champions while down to 14 but could not stop a superb run from Daly in the 26th minute, who moved from left to right and found a way through to put Sarries in front.
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) November 12, 2023
And the lead was extended in the 34th minute – Lewington running laterally to round the Falcons defensive line and dotting down in the left corner, with Lozowski putting away the tricky conversion from the touchline.
Dan scored again – in a very similar manner to his first – to give his side a bonus point they thoroughly deserved on their first-half performance.
Lozowski added another three points from the tee shortly after the break, before Byrne gave the crowd something to cheer with the hosts’ second try – Connon was unable to nail the conversion from the right.
Saracens have not lost to the Falcons in the league since February 2009 – and that run never looked in danger, as Willis went over on the flank for the visitors’ fifth try and it took a last-ditch tackle from Adam Radwan to stop Lewington going over again.
Sarries lock Stonham was sin-binned for high contact with 14 minutes to go to offer a glimmer of hope that Newcastle might get something from the game.
However, the returning Gonzalez and Vunipola went over to end any lingering doubts and condemned the Tyneside club to another loss.
Northampton leapfrogged visitors Exeter with a 34-19 victory at Franklin’s Gardens to move back into the top four of the Premiership.
Fly-half Fin Smith – just as he did in the corresponding fixture last season – inspired Phil Dowson’s side to victory, their third league win of the campaign, with a man-of-the-match performance.
The young fly-half landed 14 points with the boot, including conversions to all of the Saints’ tries, which came courtesy of Tommy Freeman, Curtis Langdon, Mitchell and Fraser Dingwall.
For the Chiefs, though, their search for a much-needed away win now stretches back to October 2022.
They countered with tries from Jacques Vermeulen, Scott Sio and Ethan Roots, two of which were converted by Henry Slade, but it was never enough on an afternoon when they were distinctly second best.
Buoyed by the return of England duo Courtney Lawes and Mitchell, it did not take the Saints long to get into their attacking stride, breaking the deadlock inside three minutes through Freeman.
Having seen an initial raid down the left through Tom Seabrook halted by a great cover tackle from Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, the hosts worked the ball back across the pitch to Smith, whose clever grubber kick in behind found the unmarked Freeman to dot down.
Smith plundered the testing touchline conversion before adding a penalty not long after as the Saints made the most of what was an energetic start.
The Chiefs were doing their best to stay in the contest, but the concession of a number of needless penalties hampered their every move. Indeed, it was from one of those very awards that the Midlanders were able to strike for a second time.
Smith’s kick to the corner positioned his forwards in prime position, the fruits of which allowed hooker Langdon to latch onto the back of the driving maul and cross in the left corner for the converted score.
Up against it, the Chiefs needed to summon a rapid response and this they did, cutting the deficit just before the break when, following some sustained pressure deep inside the Saints 22, Vermeulen was able to power over from close range.
It was the lifeline the visitors needed to get back into the contest but, after a turgid opening to the second half, it was the hosts who clicked back into gear with Smith at the heart of things.
The Northampton playmaker landed a lengthy penalty from wide on the right flank, before he was able to add the extras to a stunning third try from Mitchell. The home scrum-half cantered clear of the cover after Alex Coles, Sam Matavesi and Freeman had all combined to release him at pace.
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) November 12, 2023
The Saints were continuing to dominate proceedings and they thought they had claimed the all-important bonus point just before the hour through Freeman, but home cheers were dampened when the score was chalked off for a neck roll in the build-up.
The Chiefs made the most of the let-off, hitting back at the other end as strong carries from Slade and Rus Tuima created the platform for Australia international Sio to drive under the posts for the try.
But Exeter’s attempts to haul themselves further back into contention were all but ended when replacement Niall Armstrong was dismissed for catching Smith in the face with a karate-like kick as he attempted to field a high ball.
Northampton took just a few minutes to make their numerical advantage tell, the Saints using a close-range scrum to create the foundation for Dingwall to pick his spot and glide over for the converted bonus-point score.
To their credit, the Chiefs kept pushing to the end, their efforts rewarded with a late consolation score for Roots. It was, though, all a little too late for the visitors.