Marathon man Mallinder hails Ashton's sprint finish for Saints

Northampton 38 Gloucester 23

For Jim Mallinder, it is a marathon not a sprint. Or it will be next Sunday when the one-time England full-back tackles the 26 miles and 385 yards of the 2010 London Marathon to raise money for the charity Autism Concern. In his professional concern as Northampton's director of rugby, the end is now in sight to the nine-month slog of the regulation Guinness Premiership for the Saintly marathon man and his team. Having taken the lead with this try-bonus win (albeit for 24 hours, before Leicester's victory at Newcastle yesterday) and guaranteed a finish in the top four, his charges have the sprint that is the end-of-season play-offs to come – beyond their final three league fixtures, starting at Bath tomorrow, and the business of securing a home semi-final at Franklin's.

With that decisive winner-takes-all extra little stretch now looming, Mallinder could hardly have a better man for the job than Chris Ashton. In the course of the marathon season, Northampton's flying machine has become to the Premiership what Usain Bolt is to the international athletics arena: unstoppable. Mike Tindall did manage to halt the Lancastrian with one brilliant bit of lassoing around the ankles midway through the first-half on Saturday, but following his stuttering start in the top flight last season Ashton is developing into the try-a-game merchant he was in his debut season with the Saints down in National One two years ago.

The former Wigan Warriors rugby leaguer picked off a hat-trick against the Cherry and Whites, on an afternoon when the clinical taking of chances and some text-book turning over at the breakdown proved the difference between two sides more evenly matched than the final score suggested. Ashton's first score was a lightning bolt up the middle following a line-out steal by Courtney Lawes and a flat feed by Stephen Myler. The second was a crash-ball burst from closer range; the third was a gift from Bruce Reihana after Ashton had followed his fellow-wing over the whitewash. Ashton now has 15 tries in 17 Premiership matches this season, topping the top-flight finishers' chart by a distance. "Chris's try-scoring record is remarkable," Mallinder said. "His understanding of the game has really developed."

Northampton: Tries Ashton 3, Hartley; Conversions Myler 3; Penalties Myler3, Geraghty. Gloucester: Tries: Sharples, Attwood; Conversions: Robinson 2. Penalties: Robinson 3.

Northampton: B Foden; C Ashton, J Clarke, J Downey, B Reihana; S Myler (S Geraghty, 61), L Dickson (A Dickens, 75); S Tonga'uiha, D Hartley (capt), E Murray (B Mujati, 61), I Fernandez-Lobbe (B Sharman, 58, Easter, 62), J Kruger, C Lawes, P Dowson, R Wilson.

Gloucester: F Burns (O Morgan, 56); C Sharples, J May (T Voyce, 56), Mike Tindall (capt), J Simpson-Daniel; N Robinson, R Lawson; N Wood (A Dickinson, 46), O Azam (S Lawson, h-t), P Doran-Jones (P Capdevielle, 61), D Attwood, A Brown, A Strokosch, J Boer (P Buxton, 53), A Eustace.

Referee: A Small (London).

Sport
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
News
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss