Northampton Saints returned to winning ways in Aviva Premiership Rugby with a bonus-point victory against Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park.
Tries from Will Hooley, Alex Waller and Ken Pisi helped the defending champions to a 28-3 lead at half-time, Juan Pablo Socino responding with a penalty for the Falcons.
Newcastle rallied in the second half with Noah Cato crossing the whitewash after quick thinking from Will Welch before George North secured a bonus point for the Saints.
Saints had been stunned by Wasps last weekend, going down 20-16 and suffered a blow in the build-up to the match with Tom Wood being forced to withdraw with a bad back.
But it did not take long for the champions to find their stride with Hooley, starting in place of the injured Stephen Myler, spotting a gap in the Falcons’ defence to stretch over in the corner after four minutes.
The fly-half added the extras and things went from bad to worse for the Falcons when Ally Hogg was sent to the sin-bin moments later for a tackle off the ball, Hooley converting the resulting penalty.
Saints continued to pour forward, aided by Hogg’s absence and they soon had another penalty to show for their efforts, with Hooley again hitting the target.
Waller then finished off a great counter attacking move involving North, Samu Manoa and Kahn Fotuali’I to give Northampton an 18-0 lead with just 16 minutes played.
Socino got the Falcons on the board with a penalty on 18 minutes but it was swiftly cancelled out by Hooley before Northampton broke on the counter attack to score their third try of the half.
Hammersley attempted a quick tap-and-go penalty for the home side but was quickly snuffed out by Courtney Lawes. Manoa took over possession and broke down the right before feeding Pisi to go over under the posts.
Newcastle rallied after the break and a kick to the corner saw a period of sustained pressure on the Northampton line but desperate defending from Jim Mallinder’s men saw them force a penalty to emerge unscathed.
And Cato ensured the improved display was rewarded with a try on 70 minutes. A quick tap-and-go from Falcons captain Welch fed the winger who ran in unopposed under the posts, Socino converting.
But North secured the bonus point in the final two minutes, finishing off a slick move that started with a Lee Dickson break to consign Newcastle to a 19th straight Aviva Premiership Rugby defeat.