Ashton and Cueto grab hat-tricks to demolish Romania
CHRIS Ashton became the leading try-scorer in the Rugby World Cup with his hat-trick against Romania and then declared: “I’m back on song”.
The Northampton wing took two matches to find his feet after undergoing knee surgery during the summer but he has come roaring back into try-scoring form.
Ashton’s treble on Saturday was the second of his Test career and took his tournament tally to five – just three short of the World Cup record held jointly by Bryan Habana (2007) and Jonah Lomu (1999).
“I do feel I’m back on song again,” said Ashton, whose England strike rate is a remarkable 14 tries in 16 Tests.
“It does take a few weeks to get back into it, even though you deny it. It naturally takes a few games to get used to running around and being in position again.”
Ashton became the fourth England player to score a World Cup hat-trick – after his fellow wing Mark Cueto had become the third.
Cueto – nicknamed ‘Conker Tree’ by Ashton and Ben Foden because he’s the oldest of England’s back three – missed the opening two games of the World Cup with a back injury.
But the Sale wing made an immediate mark on the tournament with three tries in the space of 12 minutes which set England on their way to a 67-3 rout of the second-string Romanians.
While Ashton had gone five games without a try before his double against Georgia, Cueto’s record was one in his previous 25 Tests before Saturday.
“It’s good to have the old man back in the team,” Ashton said. “I’m glad he scored some tries.”
Ashton had a role in two of them before running in his own hat-trick, with two touchdowns in the first-half and the third sealing England’s 10-try romp.
“It was definitely nice to reply (to Cueto),” said Ashton.
“I was getting a bit scared when he had three and I had none. I wanted a try at some point and thankfully the lads put me in for a few.”
Cueto’s return alongside Ashton and full-back Foden reunited England’s first-choice unit and they carved Romania open time and again.
“The rapport is just a natural thing. Sometimes it happens with players, sometimes it doesn’t. You just tend to click,” Ashton said.
“We seem to do that. I can’t tell you why that is.”