Mike Haywood added the finishing touches to one of the tries of the season so far as Saints started their LV= Cup quest with a slick 37-23 victory against Newcastle Falcons.
Haywood’s first-half effort, that came after some flowing rugby from right to left, complete with an overhead pass from Christian Day, was a microcosm of the Saints display.
Because despite 14 of the 15 men who started the previous week’s Champions Cup win against Ospreys being absent, Jim Mallinder’s men played some fantastic flowing rugby.
Tom Collins’ eye-catching try got things up and running after Falcons had grabbed a polished effort of their own, through full-back Tom Catterick.
And after Teimana Harrison profited from a big shove from the pack, Haywood rounded off an exhibition score with a dart across the whitewash.
Collins ensured Saints would claim the bonus point as he again turned on the turbos - and added a cheeky sidestep for good measure - to dot down in the second half.
And after Juan Pablo Socino’s score for Falcons made things interesting, Howard Packman had the final say, producing a swallow dive in the corner.
With Will Hooley adding 12 points with the boot, it was a comfortable victory for the youthful home side.
Saints have reached three of the past five LV= Cup finals, but their quest to make another hit an early stumbling block as Newcastle started strongly.
The Falcons flew towards the home tryline with some impressive offloading, Andy Saull giving the final pass to Catterick, who scored.
Rory Clegg’s sweetly-struck kick put the visitors 7-0 up after five minutes, but Saints’ response was immediate as Collins danced through the flailing Falcons defence.
Hooley added the extras to what was an eye-catching score, before Clegg restored Newcastle’s lead with a penalty.
Saints threatened to go back in front, but Packman was bundled out of play by Newcastle centre Jamie Helleur.
The referee pulled play back for a penalty, though, and Hooley did the business from in front of the posts.
Newcastle should have gone back in front immediately, but with two men over, Scott MacLeod failed to offload and former Falcon Joel Hodgson, making his Saints debut, felled the second row oak.
The Falcons did register soon after though as Clegg was accurate with the boot once more.
Saints were searching for another spark and Collins looked most likely to provide one before being taken out by Alesana Tuilagi’s arm, leading to the former Tigers wing being sin-binned.
It was a popular decision, greeted by a roar from the home fans, and they were soon on their feet as the pack rumbled over the line from a lineout drive, with Harrison scoring.
Hooley made it 17-13 to Saints, who were sensing more tries with Tuilagi still off the field.
And they were ruthless in their execution, scoring a memorable try that included a moment of real intelligence from Day as hooker Haywood darted over for the score.
It was exhibition stuff, more associated with the Harlem Globetrotters than Saints, and Mallinder’s men held a deserved 22-13 lead.
Tuilagi soon returned to add extra impetus to the Newcastle cause and Clegg’s boot was proving reliable as he notched another penalty.
That meant Saints held a six-point lead at the break, and they soon set about extending it by grabbing the bonus point.
Collins was the man on the mark, turning on the turbos and leaving the Falcons trailing in his wake as he grabbed his side’s fourth try in an impressive performance.
Hooley’s conversion took the score to 29-16 and there was more cheer for the Tetley’s terrace 10 minutes before the end as Tuilagi dropped the ball shy of the line.
But Falcons did manage to add tension to the encounter as replacement Socino walked through a static rearguard to score.
Clegg’s conversion meant there was just six points in it once more, and with six minutes to go, Newcastle fancied their chances of nicking a win.
But Hooley’s penalty took Saints out of range and Packman ensured they finished with a flourish as the bid to book an LV= Cup final appearance at Franklin’s Gardens began.
Saints: Collins; Elliott, Stephenson, Waldouck (Mallinder 59), Packman; Hooley, Hodgson (Fotuali’i 54); E Waller (Hobbs-Awoyemi 57), Haywood (McMillan 65), Denman (Mercey 57); Woolford, C Day; Dowson (c), Harrison (Nutley 52), Fisher.
Newcastle Falcons: Smith (Hammersley 56); Catterick, Barnes, Helleur (Socino 40), Alex Tuilagi; Clegg, Blair (Davies 64); Vickers (Rogers 67), Lawson, Wilson (Tomaszczyk.67); Green, MacLeod (Robinson 59); Temm, Saull (c), Kolo’ofai (Barrow 12).
Referee: Andrew Jackson