2 3 ATTACKING KICKS
Rugby league players are well versed in attacking kicks close to the line. On the sixth tackle in their sport, a range of chips, bombs, grubbers and cross-field kicks affords them the chance to score or regain possession for a further set of tackle phases. It’s something that is practised religiously, and Ashton has developed a variety of kicks that bring added value, particularly in the act of scoring. In the Barbarians match, he took a pass at pace on the wing and dropped the ball onto his right foot with such timing and trajectory that it evaded Elliot Daly at just the right height and weight into the in-goal area. With his stride unbroken, Ashton easily won the race to the touchdown. It makes sense to use Ashton’s rapier ability as much as possible in attacks – including in behind the centres. This was a feature of his play at Saracens and Toulon, who each have tens that take the ball to the line and powerful centres that attract defenders. By coming in from the blind-side wing, behind the centres on an arced run, Ashton is difficult for defenders to pick up. All he needs is a half-gap and, given the right pass, he cuts through. He’s excellent at controlling his foot speed, quickening when needed to make breaks but slowing once a cover defender closes him down and then bringing support players into play. Here, his all-round quality makes a try for Finn Russell.