Tom Collins scored a wonderful hat-trick as Northampton Saints saw off a stubborn Worcester Warriors challenge 38-18 at Franklin’s Gardens.
The win pushes Northampton up into the top four in Aviva Premiership Rugby but they were pushed for much of the game, and were trailing shortly before the hour.
However a strong finish, including Collins’ hat-trick score, proved to be the difference, with Worcester eventually going home empty-handed despite a good performance.
Early on Northampton looked the more dangerous and Collins almost had the first try only for Bryce Heem to get back and tackle him on the right.
Still, Saints continued to press but when Chris Pennell picked off a pass in midfield he was able to boot the ball clear, eventually earning a penalty which Tom Heathcote converted.
Northampton could have levelled when they got a kickable penalty in Worcester territory but instead went to the corner and came away with nothing.
And it was the Warriors who stretched their lead just moments after they had appeared to blow a great chance. A good move off the back of a lineout saw Wynand Olivier stopped just short of the line and knock on.
Northampton cleared their lines but were soon facing a lineout in their own territory again and after appearing to go left, the Warriors went back right to send Val Rapava Ruskin through Lee Dickson and over for the try. Heathcote missed the conversion and very soon after Northampton were right back in it.
Harry Mallinder scored the try but it was made by Ken Pisi, who sliced through in midfield beating three men before delivering for his centre to go over. Stephen Myler pulled his conversion attempt wide.
Soon after they had the lead for the first time, when Ben Foden put Collins away on the left for the try. Myler’s conversion made it 12-8 to the home side.
However the lead didn’t last long as Worcester hit straight back. A beautiful pass from Francois Hougaard put Olivier through a gap in midfield and he then stepped inside Dickson and had the pace to hold off the chasing Foden. Heathcote’s conversion made it 15-12 to the visitors at the break.
However it was Northampton who flew out of the blocks in the second half, with Collins grabbing his second of the game. Myler missed the conversion as the lead was just two points.
Worcester weren’t about to fold though, and moved back in front thanks to a second penalty of the afternoon by Heathcote to make it 18-17.
However Northampton responded immediately through Dickson, who finished off a fine rolling maul to secure the Saints’ bonus point.
That looked to be the decisive score and Ken Pisi almost had a fifth when he cut through in midfield but Heathcote made a brilliant covering tackle.
But it was only a temporary reprieve, with Collins completing his hat-trick on a dream afternoon. Myler converted to stretch the lead to 13 points.
It could have been even worse for Worcester but when Ryan Lamb’s chip kick went straight to Foden leading to a Ken Pisi score, it was called back for obstruction by Myler.
While Ken Pisi was denied, his brother George was not to be, finishing off after Tom Kessell had pounced on a loose ball following a Collins kick. JJ Hanrahan converted to seal the win.