Toulon flyer Chris Ash­ton breaks the Top 14 try-scor­ing record

The Rugby Paper - - News - DAVID BARNES

“The fans thrill to Ash­ton’s elec­tri­fy­ing im­pact, his air­borne Ash Splash in the end zone, his end­less stamina and eye for the main chance”

Chris Ash­ton moved stylishly into French rugby leg­end against Top 14 lead­ers Mont­pel­lier. He has now scored more tries in a sea­son than any­one else in the league’s his­tory.

That’s 22 of them for the English winger who al­ready holds the record for touch­ing down the most tries in elite Euro­pean com­pe­ti­tion.

No-one can ever re­place Jonny Wilkin­son for the to­tal re­spect which Toulon fans gave him in re­turn for his wis­dom and courage that earned them so much ma­jor sil­ver­ware.

But Ash­ton is of a dif­fer­ent stamp. They thrill to his elec­tri­fy­ing im­pact, his air­borne Ash Splash in the end zone, his end­less stamina and eye for the main chance.

It took him only seven min­utes to have the crowd in Mar­seille’s foot­ball sta­dium on their feet to salute the score that took him be­yond pre­vi­ous record-holder Napo­lioni Nalaga, of Cler­mont.

That was one of four first-half tries that vir­tu­ally guar­an­teed Toulon’s place in the play-offs with a 32-17 vic­tory.

No Toulon player has spent more time on the pitch than Ash­ton this sea­son dur­ing which he has scored three hat-tricks and three dou­bles.

He has played ten games at full-back and now eleven on the wing, ver­sa­til­ity that does noth­ing to ar­rest the flow of points.

Boss Fa­bien Galthie says: “He has been a good find, eh? We wanted to give him a breather in our last match against Rac­ing, but he re­ally in­sisted on play­ing.”

For­wards coach Fabrice Lan­dreau adds: “Chris wants to put the record out of reach. He just can’t stop, it’s a drug for him. He is a try hunter.”

Mont­pel­lier, in truth, had left im­por­tant play­ers out of their start­ing line-up with a semi-fi­nal place al­most in the bag.

Like gi­ant Fi­jian cen­tre Ne­mani Nadolo in the stand with South African fly-half Ruan Pien­aar and No.8 Louis Pi­camoles com­ing off the bench when the game was al­ready lost.

Fi­jian winger Semi Radradra added a sec­ond Toulon try just four min­utes af­ter Ash­ton’s strike with bril­liant ap­proach work by Kiwi cen­tre Ma’a Nonu.

Fly-half Fran­cois Trinh-Duc was led from the field with his shoul­der strapped af­ter a bru­tal charge by for­mer Toulon prop Davit Kubri­ashvili, who was yel­low carded. France cap­tain Guil­hem Guirado, their hooker, was also taken off with a leg in­jury.

Trinh-Duc was re­placed by An­thony Bel­leau whose cool dink for­ward was con­verted by cap­tain Mathieu Bastareaud, who then set up Ar­gen­tine flanker Fa­cundo Isa for the fourth try and a 29-7 lead at the break.

Toulon have made a habit lately of los­ing big games they might well have won. Mont­pel­lier, who had scored a first-half try through cen­tre Vin­cent Martin, went on to de­prive their ti­tle ri­vals of a bonus point with fur­ther tries by Cameroon winger Gabriel Ngan­debe and back-rower Kevin Gal­letier.

A lapse ren­dered less dam­ag­ing by a 33-22 de­feat for Pau, their clos­est pur­suers in the top six: A re­sult with ma­jor im­pact at the other end of the ta­ble.

It was achieved in heroic fash­ion by Agen, the club that fea­tured the great- est play­ing days of France cen­tre leg­end Philippe Sella, still in­volved as a di­rec­tor.

Sella must have been thrilled. Es­pe­cially since Pau had am­bi­tions far above their own lowly sta­tus.

Agen have a mag­i­cal hat-trick of tries from Fi­jian winger Filipo Nakosi to thank for achiev­ing it. On loan from Toulon where his half-brother Jo­sua Tuisova plays, Nakosi went over twice in the first half and once in the sec­ond.

His third strike over­turned a nar­row Pau in­ter­val lead se­cured by three tries in ten min­utes from hooker Quentin Le­spi­aucq, winger Jale Vatubua and scrum-half Thibault Daubagna.

Lead­ing by just six points, Agen con­firmed their shock suc­cess with a fourth try from Kiwi winger George Til­s­ley. A feat all the more ex­cep­tional for hav­ing lost three times to Pau this sea­son in do­mes­tic and Euro­pean com­pe­ti­tion.

Bot­tom club Oy­on­nax were an­other de­fi­ant out­fit scrap­ping to avoid rel­e­ga­tion. They man­aged to leapfrog Brive by beat­ing them 40-17.

Not too sur­pris­ing given Brive’s record of gar­ner­ing just three points dur­ing a win­less cam­paign on their trav­els.

Oy­on­nax, who had shown re­cent re­silience by beat­ing Toulon at home and both Cler­mont and BordeauxBe­gles away, scored five tries, one of them from pro­lific fly-half Ben Bot­ica who scored all their points for a 14-5 lead at the break.

Ru­ma­nian lock Valentin Ur­sache added two more with flanker Patrick So­bela and Kiwi hooker Quentin MacDon­ald wrap­ping up the scor­ing.

Brive fought an up­hill bat­tle af­ter an early try by No.8 Fa­bien San­con­nie and fur­ther strikes by Fi­jian cen­tre Sere­maia Burotu and Por­tuguese scrum-half were never enough.

Cler­mont beat Bordeaux-Be­gles 33-3 in a match that had no mean­ing at both ends of the ta­ble. Cap­tain Mor­gan Parra was his re­li­able self with four penal­ties and three con­ver­sions. Oc­ca­sional Aussie hooker John Ulu­gia scored two tries for the first time in their colours.

PIC­TURE: Getty Im­ages

Record man: Chris Ash­ton has scored 22 T14 tries this sea­son

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