Worcester Warriors paid a heavy penalty for a second half performance that Head Coach Jonathan Thomas described as “unacceptable.”
Warriors led 7-5 at one stage in the first half but Northampton scored 54 unanswered points in a devastating period between the last minute of the first half and the 38th minute of the second.
A first half try from Chris Ashton, his first since he arrived from Harlequins but the 89th of his career, and one of the very last minute from Chris Pennell were of scant consolation.
Ashton’s involvement ended early as he was sent off ten minutes into the second half for making the contact of the head of a Northampton player with a shoulder in a clear-out at a ruck.
Warriors went down to 13 men for ten minutes when Francois Venter was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on, which cost a penalty plus two more as Northampton were ruthless and clinical in attack.
Wing Ollie Sleightholme scored four tries, including three in the second half, but it was his first in first half injury time that turned the game.
Not for the first time this season, Warriors had plenty of possession and territory in the first half but had only Ashton’s try to show for their effort.
Having set out their stall to start well, Warriors found themselves a try down inside four minutes when Northampton opened up the defence and full-back George Furbank went over for an unconverted try.
But Warriors showed composure by responding with a long period of pressure and control that was rewarded when Ollie Lawrence, back from England duty, made ground through the middle and Billy Searle’s long floated pass was snaffled by Ashton who dotted down in the corner.
It was Ashton’s first Premiership try since he dotted down for Harlequins against Northampton at the end of last season and, when Searle added the conversion from the touchline Warriors appeared to have laid the platform for something better.
Even though Northampton went back in front when a scrum went down on Warriors’ 22 and James Grayson, a late replacement for Dan Biggar, kicked the penalty, Warriors still looked comfortable.
With Lawrence and Joe Batley constant menaces with ball in hand it seemed only a matter of time before they regained the lead, but a period of heavy pressure went unrewarded when Justin Clegg was held up just short of the line and Northampton won a penalty at the resulting ruck.
Having lifted the siege at one end, Northampton scored at the other when Sleightholme stepped out of a couple of tackles and scored from the final play of the first half with Grayson adding the extras.
Warriors needed a score early in the second half, instead Northampton scrum-half Alex Mitchell rounded off a flowing counter-attack and the bonus point try soon followed when Sleightholme crossed.
Thomas described the second half as “a capitulation” as Northampton scored 47 points – including seven of their nine tries – before Pennell got over right on the final whistle and Fin Smith converted from the touchline.
Warriors | 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Ollie Lawrence, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Perry Humphreys (Venter 46), 10 Billy Searle (Smith 50), 9 Francois Hougaard (Simpson 64), 1 Ethan Waller (Thomas 54), 2 Niall Annett (Miller 72), 3 Nick Schonert (van Dyk 54-58), 4 Andrew Kitchener (du Preez 46), 5 Justin Clegg, 6 Ted Hill (C), 7 Matt Kvesic (Dodd 50), 8 Joe Batley.
Replacements | 16 Isaac Miller, 17 Marc Thomas, 18 Maks van Dyk, 19 Tom Dodd, 20 Cornell du Preez, 21 Gareth Simpson, 22 Fin Smith 23 Francois Venter.
4m | Furbank try 0-5
19m | Ashton try 5-5
20m | Searle con 7-5
26m | Grayson pen 7-8
40m | Sleightholme try 7-13
40m | Grayson con 7-15
43m | Mitchell try 7-20
44m | Grayson con 7-22
53m | Sleightholme try 7-27
61m | Francis try 7-32
62m | Grayson con 7-34
65m | Penalty try 7-41
71m | Ribbans try 7-46
72m | Grayson con 7-48
76m | Sleightholme try 7-53
77m | Grayson con 7-55
78m | Sleightholme try 7-60
79m | Grayson con 7-62
80m | Pennell try 12-62
80m | Smith con 14-62