Six tries for Saints as they see off Bedford Blues
Saints started their pre-season campaign with a win as they saw ofd Bedford Blues at Goldington Road on Friday night.
Plenty of Northampton fans were in attendance to see their side score six times in a 40-21 success against the Championship outfit.
Saints were 19-7 up at the break thanks to scores from Rory Hutchinson, Tom Litchfield and Alex Mitchell.
Bedford, who named several current and former Saints players in the squad, threatened a comeback in the second half, pulling back to 26-21 down at one point.
But Saints eventually flew to victory as scores from Tom Collins and Fraser Dingwall added to Josh Gillespie's effort just after the restart.
There were useful minutes for all of the 29 players in the Saints squad for the game, and they will now look forward to more when Ospreys come to Franklin's Gardens next Friday.
Saints are gearing up for the Gallagher Premiership opener against Gloucester on September 18, and they enjoyed plenty of possession early on at Bedford.
The away side kicked a series of penalties to the corner in pursuit of their first try, but the lineout was faltering, robbing them of the chance to get on the scoresheet.
There was no shortage of appetite though, with Lewis Ludlam signalling his intentions with a big hit on Saints team-mate Connor Tupai, who was starting at scrum-half for Bedford.
But it was to be the Blues who struck first, landing a sucker punch after Ludlam's offload didn't go to hand.
Full-back Rich Lane made a lightning-quick break and eventually offloaded to the onrushing Dean Adamson for the score.
Will Maisey converted and Bedford led 7-0 inside the first 15 minutes.
But Saints hit back almost immediately thanks to some lovely combination play between the centres, with Tom Litchfield feeding Rory Hutchinson for the score.
George Furbank converted to level the scores and he was soon adding the extras to a tidy Saints try, scored by Litchfield, made by the speed and awareness of Tom Collins.
Saints were well in control and Juarno Augustus almost grabbed his first try only for the ball to squirm from his grasp close to the line.
But it wasn't long before another try came as some lovely footwork from Alex Mitchell took him clear of the Blues defence.
Furbank missed the conversion but the lead was 19-7 with half-time edging ever closer.
Saints rang the changes at the break, bringing plenty of fresh faces into their backline, and one of them, Josh Gillespie, made an instant impact.
The young wing chipped ahead, gathered and scored before James Grayson converted impressively from out wide.
But Bedford responded rapidly as former Saints scrum-half Alex Day showed good awareness to score under the posts.
The successful conversion cut the gap to 12 points and Adamson then reduced it further as he started and finished a flowing Bedford move.
Saints lost Gillespie to injury and Bedford then did well to stop an attack in their 22 as there remained just five points between the teams.
It was then the turn of the Blues to apply real pressure on the opposition line, but Saints held out and won a penalty to allow them to breath again.
And after Collins stepped on the accelerator from inside his own half, the away side had the breathing space they really wanted.
Dingwall also went over before the end, making the most of fine work from Grayson, but Teimana Harrison was forced to spend a short spell in the sin bin before the final whistle.
Bedford Blues: Lane (c), Tapley, Elliott, E Grayson, Adamson; Maisey, Tupai; Conway, Hughes, Barrett; Onojaife, Woolford; Uru, Atkinson, Stedman.
Replacements: Pieterse, Dimen, Prowse, Frost, Ransom, Day, Grimoldby, Kelly, Worley.
Saints: Collins; Long-Martinez (Gillespie 40), Litchfield (Proctor 40), Hutchinson (Dingwall 40), Naiyaravoro (Hendy 40); Furbank (Grayson 40), Mitchell (Garside 40); Hobbs-Awoyemi (Iyogun 22 (Waller 40)), Fish, Painter (Garside 39 (Heffernan 60)); Moon, Wood (Irvine 60); Ludlam (c), Newman (Harrison 14), Augustus (Auterac 60).