Collins the hero as Saints smash Worcester

Tom Collins claimed three tries (picture: Sharon Lucey)

Tom Collins claimed three tries (picture: Sharon Lucey)

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Tom Collins was the hat-trick hero as Saints fought back to claim a crucial 38-18 bonus-point win against Worcester Warriors at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday afternoon.

Jim Mallinder’s men had been 15-12 down at the break, but Collins added two more tries to his first-half effort to carry his team to victory.

Harry Mallinder, Lee Dickson and George Pisi were also on the scoresheet as Saints showed style as well as grit to get the five points they needed in their pursuit of a top-four spot in the Aviva Premiership.

Struggling Worcester, who had beaten Northampton 13-12 on the league’s opening night, had their moments, with Val Rapava Ruskin and Wynand Olivier both scoring.

But Saints eventually had too much and their class showed during a second half which saw three of their former players facing them, with GJ van Velze, Phil Dowson and Ryan Lamb all on involved.

Tom Heathcote, who had landed the last-gasp drop goal that earned Worcester that dramatic win against Saints back in October, tried to put the Warriors ahead early on with a penalty, but his ambitious attempt from halfway was short and wide.

Saints were soon trying to make the most of that reprieve, twice turning down kicks at goal and going for the corner.

But a loose pass from Ken Pisi gave Chris Pennell a chance to kick clear and Worcester pressed, winning a penalty, which Heathcote landed to give his team the lead.

Saints were looking dangerous at the other end, with Collins keeping the Warriors on their toes, but the away side were defending with real desire.

And their accurate kicking was giving them chances to put pressure on their hosts, with Dickson doing well to stop centre Olivier, who was halted at the last.

But while Dickson was able to match Olivier for power, he was unsurprisingly overwhelmed by prop Rapava Ruskin who picked up the ball off a lineout and pushed past the Saints skipper to score in the corner.

Heathcote missed the conversion, meaning Saints found themselves 8-0 down, but they responded immediately thanks to some fine work from Ken Pisi.

The Samoan wing weaved his way through the Worcester defence before handing the ball to Mallinder, who charged in for the score.

Stephen Myler failed with the conversion attempt, but the Saints fans were suddenly lifting the noise levels

And they were on their feet again three minutes before the break as Ben Foden released the lively Collins down the left and the wing raced in for the score.

Myler’s conversion gave his team a four-point lead with a minute to go before the break, but Worcester refused to go in behind.

And Olivier made sure they would lead at half-time, flying through the middle of Saints and diving over the line.

Heathcote converted to give his team a three-point lead at the interval, leaving the home fans in a stunned silence.

But they weren’t quiet for long when the game resumed as Myler kicked the the corner and the ball was eventually fed left with Collins latching on to Luther Burrell’s long pass to score.

Myler missed the conversion, but Saints led 17-15 and they needed to stand tall to preserve that lead when Worcester won a lineout five metres out.

The home side eventually earned themselves a scrum, but Worcester were soon on the attack again, with Pennell missing the chance to put his team in for a score out wide.

Saints held the ball up, but Worcester soon won a penalty and Heathcote landed it to give his side a one-point advantage with 27 minutes remaining.

But Saints still had their sights set on a bonus-point score and they got it when a dominant lineout drive gave Dickson the chance to dot down.

Myler landed the conversion and Saints had a six-point lead as Worcester sent former Northampton favourite Dowson into the action.

Saints were firmly on the front foot and Ken Pisi was stopped just short before a Tom Wood pass went astray to end another dangerous move.

But it wasn’t long before the home side scored again as Jamie Gibson did brilliantly to break the line and offload to Collins, who sprinted in for his hat-trick try.

Myler’s conversion made it 31-18 with 13 minutes to go and Saints thought they had scored again four minutes later as Ken Pisi dotted down.

But the TMO spotted an obstruction by Myler in the build-up, providing a big let-off for Lamb, who had failed to get any distance on his clearance kick.

However, Saints were to score a sixth try before the end as Tom Kessell set up fellow replacement George Pisi, who dived over.

JJ Hanrahan converted to complete a resounding comeback success.

Saints: Foden; K Pisi, Burrell, Mallinder (G Pisi 51), Collins; Myler (Hanrahan 72), Dickson (c) (Kessell 72); A Waller (E Waller 65), Haywood (Marshall 74), Brookes (Denman 74); Craig, Matfield; Gibson, Wood, Harrison (Fisher 71).

Worcester: Pennell; Heem, Olivier, Mills (Symons 67), Vuna; Heathcote (Lamb 67), Hougaard; Rapava Ruskin (Leleimalefaga 59), Bregvadze (Annett 67), Schonert (Johnston 59); O’Callaghan, Barry (Sanderson 35); Potgieter, Kirwan (Dowson 59), van Velze (c).

Referee: Matthew Carley

Attendance: 14,246