Northampton Saints moved to within touching distance of an LV= Cup semi-final thanks to a destructive display of forward power that earned them a bonus-point victory over Newport Gwent Dragons.
In a game that was briefly held up by a blast of foul weather, it was the Dragons who led at the break thanks to the boot of Jason Tovey and a try on the stroke of half-time from Luc Jones.
However, the Saints had already shown their hand with a penalty try and a Fa'atoina Autagavaia score before the break and they put the hammer down after half-time.
Mike Haywood, Gareth Denman and GJ van Velze all crossed a sodden tryline after set-piece moves as the Saints cemented their spot at the top of Pool 4.
Northampton didn’t wait long before showing the destructive power of their scrum, driving the Dragons backwards inside the first ten minutes to win the penalty.
Glenn Dickson duly slotted his first three points of the match but a high tackle from Teimana Harrison on Will Harries allowed Tovey to tie the scores.
From the re-start, Saints were again penalised and Tovey used a strong wind to his advantage as he landed a penalty from the halfway line to put the Dragons ahead 6-3.
Saints reverted to using their forward power and after Dragons scrum-half Luc Jones’ kick was charged down, the hosts shoved their opponents over the line to earn a five-metre scrum.
The visitors again failed to deal with the set-piece and after their scrum crumbled referee Andrew Small awarded Northampton a penalty try that Dickson converted.
Tovey attempted to respond with another penalty only for it to fall just short of the crossbar however, he made no mistake soon after, landing his third of the match.
The gap was narrowed only briefly though as Kahn Fotuali’i made a decisive break from another powerful scrum and Autagavaia slid over for the try.
Northampton’s indiscipline set them back again though as Harrison was yellow carded but Tovey could only strike the post with the penalty.
The game was then held up for five minutes after a hailstorm swept the field but when the players returned it was the Dragons who struck first with Luc Jones burrowing over and Tovey converting to put the visitors 16-15 up at the break.
Newport Gwent Dragons changed their kit at half-time but they still failed to find an answer to Northampton’s forward power with the hosts re-taking the lead four minutes into the second half.
After kicking to the corner, Saints drove at the Welsh side’s line with Christian Day carrying the ball and supplying hooker Haywood to burrow over. Dickson converted.
Saints tried to repeat the trick and despite becoming tied up they won the resulting scrum against the head and Denman skipped down the blindside to score the bonus point try.
The Dragons attempted to respond and were held up just short of the line with the Saints going down the other end and killing the game off with another perfect catch and drive, van Velze emerging with the ball.
Saints thought they had scored again when Ken Pisi and Dragons’ Ross Wardle dived for the ball in a puddle under the posts but the TMO ruled it was not a try.
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