'Mixed emotions' for returning Ashton
While Britain's ash trees are in danger from a deadly fungus, the man known as "Ashy" survived his first visit with Saracens to his old club with "mixed emotions". Chris Ashton, Saracens' England wing, said he heard "a lot of booing" from the Franklin's Gardens crowd who had once cheered his 93 tries in four years as a Saint.
The halo slipped when Ashton announced he was off midway through last season, and even further when he barged clumsily into Vasily Artemyev in a first-half tackle of no finesse. "There was a lot of booing and there was a lot of 'Eeyoring'," said Ashton, who might have worsened relations further by scoring a second-half try in Saracens' 16-6 victory if his touch with the right boot had been better when pursuing a hack upfield by Joel Tomkins. "I didn't know that went on round here, but apparently so. It was strange to be back, it was good to be back." Of the Artemyev tackle, which was probably worth a yellow card rather than the simple penalty awarded, Ashton said: "I was just glad the referee and linesman came to the decision they did. Bad timing."
Owen Farrell must have left for England duty in good heart after the 21-year-old fly-half converted all four of his shots at the posts, including one from his own half. Farrell kicked the conversion when Alex Goode finished a searing counter-attack try with 25 minutes gone, and two penalties to one by Ryan Lamb after half-time. Northampton's scrummaging was dominant but not always in a clean-cut way and, with Steve Myler departing with a hamstring injury, the dangerous Pisi brothers were snuffed out and Saints knocked off the top of the Premiership.
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