Leicester Tigers secured a bonus-point 35-20 win over Northampton Saints in the 50th Premiership meeting of the teams on Friday evening.
Tigers remained on top of the Gallagher Premiership table after bouncing back from consecutive league defeats with a bonus-point try against Worcester Warriors last Saturday and added another five-pointer against their oldest rivals in front of a 23,000 crowd.
Saints travelled in good form for the Gallagher Premiership Round 16 clash following back-to-back away wins at Newcastle and Worcester, and with four wins in their last five visits in all competitions.
Nadolo and Tommy Reffell returned to the Tigers line-up, while Chris Ashton was named among the replacements against his former club after signing a short-term contract this week, though Tigers were without six players on England duty.
Freddie Burns kicked off towards the Beehive Money Stand and both teams looked for gains from territorial kicking in the opening moments, with Tigers then losing lineout ball on the left edge of the opposition 22.
But the visitors got the breakthrough try on seven minutes when scrum-half Alex Mitchell broke from deep and then, after some quick offloading across the field, he got back on the ball and managed to finish from the 22 despite a despairing tackle from Dan Kelly. Referee Matthew Carley watched a number of replays to check for a potential knock-on but awarded the score. George Furbank was well of-target with the conversion attempt but Saints led by five points.
Stolen lineout ball gave Jasper Wise his first carry into the visiting defence, then Wigglesworth and Potter worked together on the right touchline to keep the momentum going and, with an advantage being played, it paid off with a score for Nadolo.
The forwards carried hard following Kelly and Burns and eventually, Wigglesworth found the big wing with a popped pass under the posts. Burns added the extras for a 7-5 lead on 15 minutes.
Tigers broke out straight from the restart, led by Hanro Liebenberg, and it was the captain who almost got free on the right in the 22 before Saints got back.
Burns added a penalty from 35 metres to push the lead to five points, with Tigers pressuring Saints into errors in their own half as the visitors tried to offload and pass their way out of trouble.
Montoya changed his shirt after treatment for a facial cut but was back in play as Tigers stayed in attacking territory, and got on the ball when Burns stabbed a penalty into the left-hand corner on 22 minutes.
Tigers were made to work hard to return maul ball, with Harry Wells eventually ripping back possession and this time, after Kelly and Burns took play up, the fly-half played to the right and there was no stopping Nadolo as he dotted down for a second time. Burns added the extras to make it 17-5 with 23 minutes gone.
Ashton made his first appearance for his sixth Premiership club on 27 minutes when Burns made way for a head injury assessment, which meant Bryce Hegarty took on kicking duties when Saints were penalised again, but he pushed it wide.
Nadolo almost sneaked through a gap on the left with a chip-kick after two impressive Kelly carries in midfield.
But a third try did follow when Tigers mauled their way to the line and Montoya touched down. Hegarty was off-target with his kick as Tigers led 22-5.
But the response was immediate and impressive as Rory Hutchinson broke down the right and found Skosan with the pass for a second Saints score to make it 22-10.
They almost had another as Furbank ran on a diagonal to the left-hand corner, only to be wrapped up and taken into touch by Ashton in his final action before the blood-bin reversal for Burns.
Tigers lost Harry Wells to a yellow card for a tip tackle in the final minute of the half, but stood firm in defence with Kelly and Porter wrapping up a final Saints attack.
Saints sent on Matt Proctor and Karl Wilkins for the start of the second half, but Tigers had an early penalty and Burns, who had returned from his assessment, stroked it over from 35 metres to make it 25-10.
The whistle went again in Tigers’ favour soon afterwards but after TMO interjection, was reversed for a tackle in the air on halfway but Saints lost possession as they played from their lineout on the left and the opportunity was lost.
Saints opted to go for goal from a penalty on the 22 and Furbank’s kick brought them back within two scores at 25-13, but a deflected chip-kick gave Burns the chance to race through their defence before being stopped just 10 metres out.
A teasing kick from Burns pushed Saints back again and then, when they missed their lineout throw, Montoya and then Snyman attacked the tryline but were stopped short.
Bouncing ball from a box-kick almost allowed Sam Matavesi through on the right for Saints but aggressive defence closed out the chance and Tigers had put-in after a knock-on and also a penalty at scrum time to take play into the opposing half of the field again.
Nadolo earned an appreciative applause as he left the field after his first appearance in a month and the clapping had barely ended when Burns set up a bonus-point score with his quick break and Tigers recycled to find Hegarty for his first Premiership try.
The conversion from Burns made it 32-13 on the hour and he added another three points with a long-range penalty to take the lead to 22 points.
Saints were held up over the line from a lineout drive but the referee had already signalled a penalty and they stayed in the corner. This time, despite meeting some meaty defence, they had another penalty as referee Carley spoke to Jack van Poortvliet, taking the captaincy after Liebenberg’s substitution.
They had advantage again when Karl Wilkins pushed his way over for a try and Ashton, who had been back on the field for just a couple of minutes was the player to go to the sin bin.
Acceleration from Burns took him past the Saints backline but when van Poortvliet gathered the ball 10 metres out, he was tackled round the neck by Furbank who escaped with just a penalty award.
Tigers attacked again from a tap penalty but couldn’t find a final push to the line from the forwards or from Burns as he eyed a gap, only for the visitors to close the door. But play stayed close to their tryline as the clock ticked down on a 13th league victory of the season for Steve Borthwick's men.