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Chris Ashton: 'There's a word in the way - equal'

By PA
Chris Ashton /PA

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Chris Ashton is determined to write his name into Gallagher Premiership history after equalling Tom Varndell’s try-scoring record in Leicester’s 22-17 victory over Exeter at Sandy Park.

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Ashton crossed in each half to draw level with Varndell’s milestone of 92 touchdowns as the Tigers secured their place in the top four with a statement performance at the Devonian home of one of their title rivals.

And while Leicester cemented their place at the summit of the Premiership, it was also a memorable day for a well-travelled former England wing, who turns 35 on Tuesday intent on chasing the final try he needs to become the league’s most prolific finisher.

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Rugby Roots | Chris Ashton (Sunday evening release)
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Rugby Roots | Chris Ashton (Sunday evening release)

“There’s a word in the way – equal,” said the well-travelled Ashton, who thought his career was over until Tigers boss Steve Borthwick offered him a short-term contract in February.

“I’ve spent since the age of five wanting to score tries, so it would be nice to leave the record behind. Yes it would.

“But having spent time at home thinking that was it, I’m just grateful to be back out here playing and enjoying it.

“If the added bonus is that I do manage to go out on a high like that, I’ll be happy because that’s what I set out to do. I’m hoping that’s going to happen.

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“I’m glad to get a couple of tries. This is a good team so there are always going to be opportunities if I’m doing what I normally do.

“I’m honestly at the stage of my career where I’m desperate to be involved.”

Leicester have taken another step in their transformation under Borthwick by clinching a play-off spot with four matches left to play, in the process moving one win away from a home semi-final.

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Ashton played for Saracens during the early stage of their Premiership and European dominance and is reluctant to anoint the Tigers as champions in waiting just yet.

“Hard to say. The amazing thing is that not one person in the changing room is talking about anything other than Tuesday night against London Irish,” Ashton said.

“I think that’s a really good thing. We’re gaining experience all the time. To win here in the fashion we did – Exeter came back at us and we managed to hold them out. I think we’ve taken another stride forward.”

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George Ford’s afternoon was ended early by an injury to his left ankle but Borthwick said the damage is not thought to be serious.

Exeter were trailing 19-0 but fought back through short-range tries by Dave Ewers and Patrick Schickerling with a Joe Simmonds penalty securing a late losing bonus point.

“It was one of those games where we weren’t good enough. We found lots of little ways to hurt ourselves and it was us doing that which allowed Leicester to capitalise,” Chiefs boss Rob Baxter said.

“What Leicester have got at the moment is that machine-like quality that we had at our best. They made the most of their opportunities and limited ours.

“We were in a fight for the play-offs before this and we are definitely in a fight now. You can’t see us being able to lose more games, but the bonus point could be very important.”

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