Premiership: Revitalised Chris Ashton fuelling Saracens’ hopes


Chris Ashton recognises the benefit of the “mental rest” he gained by missing the summer tours by the Lions and England – he was not selected and rested respectively – even if the rejection upset the Saracens wing. Now it has taken a new season in which his club cannot stop winning for him to enjoy his rugby again.

Ashton scored a comparatively modest 10 tries for Saracens last  season after moving from Northampton and only twice in 16 England appearances since the 2011 World Cup. His try on Saturday that helped break Harlequins’ resistance in Sarries’ 22-12 win at the Twickenham Stoop was his second of the current campaign.

“There was a point when I got a bit down about it,” said Ashton. “You want to be involved [in internationals] and it was just time to sit at home and let other lads have a go. Mike Brown [a full-back] was playing on the wing for England last year so the summer gave Stuart [Lancaster, the England coach] a good chance to look at other lads and I thought they played well and it was tough to watch. I have tried hard to  develop the all-round game and not just be there for scoring tries.”

A cautionary note: England in the autumn may not play the same way as Saracens, and it is not certain that Ashton’s defence – or indeed that of his positional rivals Marland Yarde and Christian Wade – is up to top Test level. For now, Saracens are growling contentedly as London’s top dogs.

This was their fourth win in a scintillating September, at an average more than 34 points a match and it was of little importance that they were  unable to add another try bonus to the ones against London Irish, Gloucester and Bath. The likes of Leicester and Northampton in the Premiership and Toulouse in the Heineken Cup may say otherwise, but Saracens’ brute power and 80-minute fitness are currently irresistible.

Ashton explained the impact of a  re-think at the club prompted by last spring’s semi-final knockouts by Northampton and Toulon. “The energy in the team is outstanding and it lifted again in the second half,” he said. “You could see Quins in the second half, it was tough for them. Our  forwards were working so hard. Billy Vunipola and James Johnston have added weight and carrying power. It’s changed, getting lads in motion a bit more, getting them on the front foot, and the way we are attacking is much better than it was last year.”

Neither team was at full strength and Saracens might have prospered further if the injured midfielders Charlie Hodgson, Brad Barritt and Joel Tomkins had been available. But Owen Farrell, Duncan Taylor and the out-of-position Chris Wyles did their bit in creating Ashton’s 51st-minute try that put Saracens 13-12 ahead after Nick Evans’ four first-half penalties for Harlequins to Farrell’s two. And every Saracens back must have been grateful to their wolfish breakaway forwards, among whom Jacques Burger, has more stitches above his left eye than in a patchwork quilt.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform