Who’s hot and who’s not: Chris Ashton’s feat, England’s Six Nations success and Spain’s World Cup axing

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 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

It’s time for our Monday wrap of who has their name in lights and who is making the headlines for all the wrong reasons after the weekend.

THEY’RE ON FIRE!

Chris Ashton creates history: After making his Premiership debut in 2007 for Northampton, 15 years later Ashton has secured his place in the record books by overtaking Tom Varndell as the leading Premiership try-scorer with 95 five-pointers compared to the retired winger’s 92 which he was tied with prior to Saturday. Now playing for Leicester, the former England international broke the record after three minutes against Bristol Bears at Welford Road before adding two more later in the first half to strengthen his tally. This score could be even higher had Ashton not started his rugby career with two years at rugby league’s Wigan Warriors and spent a season with Toulon in France later in his career before joining Sale.

England Women: Simon Middleton’s charges continued with their dominance in the Women’s Six Nations when they sealed a Grand Slam triumph courtesy of a 24-12 victory over France in front of a sell-out crowd at Bayonne’s Stade Jean Dauger. England‘s first half performance set up this win as they held a 21-7 at half-time after Sarah Bern (2) and Abbie Ward scored tries. Both sides went off the boil after the break but England clinched their victory and they have now won 23 successive matches. It’s also their fourth successive Six Nations triumph and their latest success sets them up nicely for the Women’s Rugby World Cup which kicks off in October.

Northampton and James Grayson: The Saints continued their excellent form when they put in a gutsy performance against the Premiership’s defending champions, Harlequins, and were rewarded with a 32-31 triumph at Franklin’s Gardens on Friday. Northampton displayed great character after losing forwards Juarno Augustus, Conor Carey, Paul Hill and Alex Coles to injury in the first half and their latest victory means they have now won their last five matches in the competition with bonus-points. That form means they are on course for the play-offs as they are currently in fourth place with two games left to play. Grayson deserves special praise as he was Saints’ match-winner after slotting a 50-metre penalty in the dying moments against Quins.

Brain-health clinic concept: Scottish rugby has announced that they will be holding a brain-health clinic pilot at Murrayfield. They will be inviting former male and female players with the aim of improving player welfare in such a high-impact sport where brain damage and Alzheimer’s are a risk factor. Should the clinic be a success, this could revolutionise post-career care and help players’ physical and mental health which are connected.

Waratahs: Darren Coleman’s charges surprised all and sundry when they clinched a shock 24-21 victory over 12-time Super Rugby champions the Crusaders in Sydney on Saturday. This was a stunning result of epic proportions as it was the Waratahs’ first win over New Zealand opposition since they beat the Crusaders in 2019. Added to that, the Waratahs are in a rebuilding phase under new coach Coleman after losing 13 successive matches last year. They delivered a superb performance on Saturday and raced into a 17-0 half-time lead before the Crusaders launched a stunning fightback. The home side did enough to keep them at bay during the game’s latter stages, however, and were deserved winners in the end.

COLD AS ICE!

Bath nilled against Gloucester: 10 tries conceded, nine different scorers and a humiliating 64-0 defeat. Little more needs to be said. Bath are fortunate that the RFU’s Covid-19 recovery plan is preventing relegation this season, or else they would be in the running for demotion which is no surprise to anyone following outings like Saturday’s against their West Country rivals, Gloucester. Former England wing Ugo Monye described the performance as “disgraceful” when on air working as a pundit for BT Sport. That result means Bath currently sit bottom of the table and have scored the least amount of tries in the Premiership this season with 50.

Dragons lose to Zebre Parma: Dean Ryan’s men became the first United Rugby Championship team to lose to the Italian side this season. The loss handed Zebre their first win in 14 months and highlighted significant concerns for the Welsh club, who have struggled all campaign, winning only two games from 15 in a year Ryan will want to forget. The Dragons have recruited well for 2022/23 but morale is low at the Welsh region, who appear to be going backwards.

Spain kicked out of World Cup: After a dramatic turnaround from Spain to grant them a spot at the global showpiece in France next year, it has all been for nothing as the nation has been docked 10 points in the Rugby Europe Championship to end their dreams. This is due to the fact they fielded an ineligible player, South African prop Gavin van den Berg. Sound familiar? Well, you’re right! Spain met the same fate, alongside Romania and Belgium, before the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, allowing Russia through to the competition. This time round it is Romania who will benefit at Spain’s expense and the Eastern Europeans will now join South Africa, Ireland, Scotland and an Asian/Pacific qualifier in Pool B.

Crusaders ill-discipline: The men from Christchurch will be wondering what could have been if they had their full compliment of players on the pitch during the latter stages of their loss to the Waratahs. With the Kiwi outfit chasing the game, they needed all hands on deck but lost the services of Hamish Dalzell and Pablo Matera in quick succession. Dalzell was red carded in the 67th minute for a dangerous high tackle on Michael Hooper before Matera received his marching orders a minute later for collapsing a maul illegally close to his try-line. Usually so calm under pressure, the Crusaders lost their way in this encounter and their poor discipline was at the heart of their implosion.

READ MORE: Sunday Social: Emotions, culture and playing with an injury

The article Who’s hot and who’s not: Chris Ashton’s feat, England’s Six Nations success and Spain’s World Cup axing appeared first on Planetrugby.com.

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