Marathon man Mallinder hails Ashton's sprint finish for Saints
Northampton 38 Gloucester 23
Monday 19 April 2010
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).
Frank Lampard was RIGHT not to celebrate Manchester City's equaliser against Chelsea
All Blacks Aaron Cruden misses New Zealand flight after drinking session, has brilliant excuse
Colombian women's cycling team kit that makes wearer appear naked is branded 'unacceptable' by UCI president
Five reasons why Louis van Gaal is a worse Manchester United manager than David Moyes
Comment: Louis Van Gaal struggled at start of Bayern reign, but Manchester United's problems run deeper and Premier League is less forgiving
- 2 Rihanna 'nude pictures' claims emerge on 4Chan as hacking scandal continues
- 3 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 4 'F*ck it, I quit': KTVA reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
- 5 Hitler’s former food taster reveals the horrors of the Wolf’s Lair
Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God