Gerrit-Jan van Velze crossed for two tries against his future employers as Northampton Saints defeated Worcester Warriors 30-14 to reclaim top spot in the Aviva Premiership.
The first-half was particularly tight with Chris Pennell bookending the first 40 minutes with a pair of penalties and Stephen Myler kicking three of his own in between to send Saints in 9-6 up at the break.
Both sides chalked up their first tries soon after the re-start with Worcester’s David Lemi crossing to cancel out a penalty try before a flurry of cards left the visitors with a mountain to climb.
A red card for Jonathan Thomas and a yellow for Sam Betty left the 13 men unable to resist 14-man Northampton, who despite losing Sam Dickinson to the sin-bin plundered two tries from van Velze to seal the win.
Northampton were penalised at the first scrum of the game with Pennell kicking Worcester Warriors into a 3-0 lead.
Pennell then put through a clever kick that came to nothing before he attempted a long-range penalty to double the advantage that flew wide.
Saints drew level after a break from Tom Stephenson, on his Premiership debut, was carried on by Lee Dickson and after play was halted for a penalty, Myler made no mistake.
Myler kicked his second penalty on 21 minutes and after Alex Waller made amends for conceding an early penalty when he got the better of the set-piece, the fly-half added his third to stretch Saints’ lead to 9-3.
Warriors ran defending champions Leicester Tigers close last weekend but their task at Franklin’s Gardens grew tougher when Leonardo Senatore was sent to the sin-bin for preventing Dickson taking a quick penalty.
It appeared Northampton would pull away but in fact it was 14-man Worcester who hit back, Pennell kicking a difficult penalty to bring his side back to 9-6 at the break.
Northampton burst back into life after the re-start and after a series of driving mauls were illegally stopped in their tracks, referee Wayne Barnes pointed for a penalty try and Myler added the extras.
Yet Worcester refused to be lie down and from the re-start Alex Grove kicked the ball through and Lemi won the race to dot down.
Pennell failed to convert and Worcester’s hopes were again dented by indiscipline when Thomas was red carded on 52 minutes with Saints No.8 Dickinson sent to the bin for his part in the incident.
The game had barely re-started when Worcester were reduced temporarily to 13 men after Betty was yellow carded for bringing down another maul.
Saints’ power and superior numbers were always likely to tell and so it proved as they rumbled over with van Velze taking the credit and Myler again converting to stretch the lead to 23-11.
Worcester gathered their composure and chipped away at the lead with Pennell kicking his third penalty of the match.
However, they had no answer to Northampton’s power and van Velze, who will ply his trade with Worcester next season, crossed for his second try of the match with 13 minutes to go, Myler again converting to take the Saints back to the top of the table.
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