Leicester Tigers scored seven tries in a 55-26 away win over Northampton Saints on Saturday for a seventh victory of the season.
Tigers claimed four first-half tries to lead 27-0 before Saints got on board with a score in the final action of the half, but had to brave a period of momentum in the second half down to 13 men before pulling clear again for derby victory in Round 7 of the Gallagher Premiership season.
After an early penalty for George Ford at a sold-out at the cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens, Nemani Nadolo provided the opening try of the day and he added a second just 10 minutes later after Francois van Wyk dotted down for the first time as a Tigers player.
That put the visitors 20 points in front by the 22nd minute and Julián Montoya stretched that with a trademark score from a drive in the corner after Saints had been punished for indiscipline close to their own line.
Saints finally responded with a try on the stroke of half-time and they started to close the gap with two more tries in the third quarter to make the score 19-30 and also had advantage with Tigers collecting simultaneous yellow cards for Richard Wigglesworth and Jasper Wiese.
But a quick-thinking drop goal from Ford and a couple of penalties took the impetus out of the hosts and there were further tries for replacements Jack van Poortvliet (2) and Kini Murimurivalu before Saints claimed a point with their fourth score at the end.
Ford got the 247th East Midlands derby started in bright sunshine and he added the opening points of the day just four minutes into proceedings after Saints failed to make an efficient exit from their own territory and were then penalised in trying to recycle ball.
The opening try followed on 12 minutes with Jasper Wiese making the initial break with a powerful carry which had Saints forced back into their 22. Harry Potter also threatened in possession before Tigers played left to right and a long pass from Dan Kelly found Nadolo on the left touchline and there was no stopping the big wing from there.
Saints had already turned down a kick for goal when they were given an attacking when fly-half Dan Biggar missed a 15th minute penalty from a kickable position and just five minutes later, Tigers had a second try.
This time Kelly managed to get forward in the 22 and, when support arrived, prop van Wyk showed his strength in making the final push just to the right of the posts. Ford’s conversion made it 15-0.
The travelling support had only just calmed down when Nadolo grabbed his second score of the day moments later, latching on to ball after a spill by Alex Mitchell near halfway. The Fijian was clear on his own and, though he slipped just short of the line as he stepped in off his left foot, he managed to stretch out and score.
A further break by Wiese almost led to a fourth try as Tigers continued to punish errors by pinning Saints back in defence, but lock Api Ratuniyarawa made a superb tackle on Ford as the fly-half looked to break clear on the left with Nadolo again in support.
Tigers, though, stayed on the front foot through a series of penalties in the right-hand corner which led to a warning from referee Tom Foley and then the bonus-point try.
Eli Snyman had controlled lineout ball and hooker Montoya broke off the back of the maul to push over for the score and Ford’s immaculate conversion made it 27-0.
Saints, though, found a reply on the stroke of half-time with a series of attacking phases and, although Kelly produced a trysaving tackle on Rory Hutchinson almost on the tryline, the hosts retained ball long enough to find Skosan to score on the right touchline in the final action of the half.
Biggar missed his conversion kick and made way at half-time, with James Grayson on to kick off after the break.
Tigers lost Wigglesworth to a yellow card after high contact on a Saints player in defence in the opening minutes of the half and opposite number Mitchell instantly provided a try for Saints to the left of the posts.
In the build-up, referee Foley spotted a no-arms tackle by Wiese and the No8 also collected a yellow card before Grayson could add the conversion to make it 12-27.
Saints had momentum with them and attacked the line again, only to be held up in the left-hand corner with the clock on 50 minutes and then Potter stepped in to stop Mitchell as he broke on the blindside of a maul just 10 metres out.
Ford had to step in at scrum-half as 13-man Tigers eventually cleared lines from a defensive lineout and then pulled Nadolo into a scrum near halfway and almost broke clear for a try when loose ball bounced to Matias Moroni. He chipped ahead but was just beaten to the bounce behind the Saints line.
As well as ticking over the scoreboard, it also ate into the yellow-card period and Wigglesworth was back on the field as the game restarted with Tigers 30-12 in front.
The hosts still had a man advantage, though, and used it to overload the left wing as prop Alex Waller ran in their third try on 57 minutes.
From the restart, Freddie Burns earned a penalty with his effort in the kickchase and Dan Cole followed with work over the ball as Ford knocked over two more kicks from around 35 metres as Tigers led 36-19 and took the sting out of the Northampton revival.
More distance opened on the scoreboard when Jack van Poortvliet charged down a clearing kick and had the pace to run in to score his team’s fifth of the afternoon on 66 minutes. Ford’s kick stretched that lead to 43-19 with a dozen minutes remaining on the clock.
Another replacement, prop Nephi Leatigaga, made his sizeable presence felt in gaining a turnover to set up another attack and he was rewarded moments later when Tigers won more turnover ball, allowing debutant Bryce Hegarty to set Murimurivalu away on the left. He bounced off one tackler and dived in for the score.
Ford was off target with his conversion attempt but there were Saints fans heading for the exit with seven minutes still to play.
The hosts still needed another score to claim any consolation from the afternoon and almost had it when David Ribbans picked up just short of the line, only to be held up by a combination of Cowan-Dickie and Hegarty.
But they stayed close to the line and eventually created the opportunity for Grayson to find Skosan with a crosskick for his second try of the day and his team’s fourth.
Grayson added the kick to make it 26-48 but Tigers were still not finished as van Poortvliet stepped in to score an interception try and Ford added the kick to take his own tally to 20 or the day and brought the action to a close.