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'I played alongside him many years ago... you can't tell very much difference'

By PA
Chris Ashton /PA

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Leicester head coach Steve Borthwick paid tribute to the evergreen Chris Ashton after the former England winger became the Gallagher Premiership’s record try scorer.

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Ashton ran in a hat-trick in the Tigers’ 56-26 victory over Bristol Bears at Mattioli Woods Welford Road to reach 95 top-flight scores, surpassing Tom Varndell at the head of the all-time standings.

The 35-year-old, who signed in February after his release from Worcester, scored his treble inside the first 27 minutes as Leicester ran in eight tries in total to secure themselves a home semi-final in the play-offs.

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Borthwick said: “We all know what a quality player he is.

“What’s struck me most is that I played alongside him many years ago and you can’t tell very much difference.

“I’ve aged a lot and the way he goes about his daily business is pretty much the same – he’s competitive, he trains as hard as anybody, and that was always the way.

“I’ll always remember walking into the gym, and I thought I was pretty early into the gym when I was a player, and he’s already wrapping up a boxing session.

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“That always stuck with me and that’s what I see in him now; he wants to be better, he wants to improve.”

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On his side’s overall performance, Borthwick said: “We’re really pleased with the result, pleased with the way the team started the game and found a way to pressure the opposition, but there’s plenty to improve on, particularly in the second half.”

Ashton’s treble was added to by Ben Youngs’ first try of the season for Leicester, who led 27-12 at half-time, with Jack Bates and Toby Fricker replying for Bristol before the interval.

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Matias Moroni, Freddie Steward, Jasper Wiese and Harry Potter then all ran in for the Tigers after the break, while scores for Harry Thacker and Chris Vui earned the Bears a bonus point.

Bristol director of rugby Pat Lam said: “The score doesn’t reflect the effort a lot of our boys put in.

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“Unfortunately, what it reflected was the silly, stupid turnovers that we gave – that’s sort of the story of our season, that someone makes a mistake and then the boys have to work hard to cover it up.

“Even right to the very end the boys are hanging in there and we probably put ourselves under pressure, but when you turn over against a team that’s in form, a team that’s having their day, it makes it hard.

“I’m proud of the effort, but certainly there were some poor mistakes from some individuals.

“Leicester are the gold standard at the moment. This is their time. They’re doing well, and fair play to them.

“Everyone has their day and we will get our day back.”

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