Northampton Saints moved to within two points of the Aviva Premiership Rugby top four with a convincing five-try victory over London Irish.
The Exiles had slipped to the foot of the table the previous evening, courtesy of Newcastle Falcons’ impressive victory over Leicester Tigers.
And despite coming into the game off the back of a morale-boosting victory over Worcester Warriors last time out – and beating Northampton earlier in the season – they were well beaten at Franklin’s Gardens.
The Saints raced into a 21-0 lead at the break, James Craig and Alex Waller scoring either side of a penalty try, while Jamie Elliott and man-of-the-match Lee Dickson added second-half scores.
David Paice pulled one back for the Exiles late on but there was no hope of a fightback and they will finish the weekend bottom of the pile.
Northampton showed an early glimpse of their quality when Stephen Myler fed Dickson, who allowed Luther Burrell to break through the Irish line but a Harry Mallinder knock-on halted their progress.
They earned a man advantage when Halani Aulika was sin-binned for not retreating on 12 minutes and they soon capitalised, the pack piling over the line for Craig to score and Myler duly converting.
And that advantage doubled just before Aulika was welcomed back into fold, the Exiles hauling down a maul and conceding a penalty try, Myler tapping over the extras.
Irish missed an opportunity to hit back with a maul of their own, when they knocked on just shy of the Northampton line, while Shane Geraghty watched a penalty fall just short of the posts seven minutes before half-time.
That miss was punished just a few minutes later when the Saints set up camp inside their visitors’ 22 and Waller collected a neat Elliott offload to score – Myler preserved his perfect record from the tee to make it 21-0 at the break.
Geraghty began the second half with a sharp break but couldn’t find the crucial offload and, much like they did in the first half, Northampton punished their visitors.
Burrell and James Wilson linked up well as Saints stole a march deep into Irish territory and Elliott crossed over for the bonus-point try – verified by the TMO.
Myler converted and almost immediately from the re-start they struck again, Tom Wood picking a perfect gap and Jamie Gibson producing a tidy offload for captain Dickson to score – another two points for the fly-half.
A raft of changes from both sides saw the game slow down somewhat before it was Northampton’s turn to see a man sent to the sin bin, replacement fly-half JJ Hanrahan the offender.
They were soon down to 13 when Gibson saw yellow for not retreating and Irish at last got on the scoreboard, when Paice crossed over late on and Geraghty converted.