Northampton Saints produced a hugely impressive performance to ease past a poor Leicester Tigers side 36-13 in the Premiership on Saturday.
The Saints marched to a bonus-point win – a fourth derby success on the spin – as Matt Proctor’s double was added to by Api Ratuniyarawa, Tom Collins and Fraser Dingwall.
The Northampton backs had a field day as the likes of Rory Hutchinson and George Furbank flourished in the heat of the East Midlands derby.
Leicester, who had brought back all of their England World Cup players, could only respond through Guy Thompson’s first-half try and eight points from the boot of George Ford.
It means the Tigers remain second bottom, while Northampton are back at the Premiership summit with Bristol still to play on Sunday.
The Saints had been hit by a triple blow before kick-off as they lost experienced trio Owen Franks, Courtney Lawes and Dan Biggar to injury.
Ehren Painter, Ratuniyarawa and James Grayson were the players asked to fill the void.
And Northampton soon lost another player as influential full-back Furbank was forced off for a head injury assessment.
Both teams failed to make anything stick during the opening 12 minutes, but Leicester were able to go in front thanks to a Ford penalty from in front of the posts.
Furbank was able to return to the field soon after as Northampton tried to exert some pressure.
And they did just that, using a scrum in the Tigers 22 to eventually allow Cobus Reinach to send Proctor through a non-existent Leicester defence.
— Northampton Saints 😇 (@SaintsRugby) November 30, 2019
Tigers were dealt another blow as wing Jonah Holmes was forced off with an injury, but the away side scored soon after as flanker Thompson got the ball down.
Ford kicked to make it 10-7, but the scores were soon level as Grayson landed a penalty earned by Alex Waller’s rampaging run into the Tigers 22.
Saints then took the lead once more as fine combination play between Furbank and Hutchinson allowed Proctor to spin and score a second in the corner.
Grayson converted to a huge roar and Northampton were now firmly on top.
They scored again just before the break as Hutchinson released Proctor who ran a lovely line before giving the ball to man of the match Taqele Naiyaravoro for a trademark offload for the onrushing Ratuniyarawa.
Grayson converted again to make it 24-10, but Leicester responded after the restart. Ford landed a penalty after lock Alex Moon had been sin-binned for deliberately slapping the ball out of Leicester hands.
But it did not ruin Northampton’s momentum and after Leicester’s lineout woes continued, Reinach sent a long pass out to Collins, who bagged his team’s bonus-point try.
Leicester were struggling to summon up any sort of response and there was still time for it to get worse as Dingwall, just on for Proctor, finished off another flowing move.
Grayson converted to make it 36-13 and Northampton continued to pile the pressure on until the final whistle, with Leicester left battered and bruised.
🕰 That's all she wrote 🕰
Performance of the day?? pic.twitter.com/ufaZNGCwmo
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) November 30, 2019
In the other two matches played in the Premiership on Saturday, there were wins for Exeter Chiefs and Worcester Warriors over Wasps and Sale Sharks respectively, the latter having to play the second half a man down after Jean-Luc du Preez was shown red just before the break.
Exeter cruised to a 38-3 victory at Sandy Park as Ben Moon, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tom O’Flaherty and Alec Hepburn crossed to add to a penalty try on the hour mark. Gareth Steenson slotted 11 points off the tee as the Chiefs climb to second spot, behind an in-form Northampton side.
Worcester meanwhile came from behind to defeat Sale 20-13 at Sixways, with Perry Humphreys and Ashley Beck scoring in the second 40.
Sale had led 10-3 thanks to Faf de Klerk and Chris Ashton’s first-half tries but Du Preez’s sending off for a shoulder charge handed Worcester momentum and they clawed their way in front to prevail. AJ MacGinty’s late penalty did, at least, salvage a losing bonus-point for the Sharks.