Chris Ashton reaches century milestone as Leicester Tigers beat Exeter Chiefs

    Credit: Alamy

Credit: Alamy

Former England winger Chris Ashton became the first player to score 100 Premiership tries in Leicester Tigers’ remarkable 62-19 triumph over Exeter Chiefs.

Ashton made it to 99 in the first half as the Midlands side took a 22-12 lead at the break, with Dan Kelly and Jack van Poortvliet also getting through.

Sam Simmonds and Stuart Hogg went through the whitewash to keep Exeter in the contest but their contest was effectively conducted when Olly Woodburn strangely received a second yellow card for preventing Ashton from scoring his 100th try.

Woodburn was sinned in the first half for a deliberate knock-on and was then sent off after he was deemed to have illegally prevented a try.

Subsequently, Leicester dominated with Ashton crossing for white twice more to complete his hat-trick and make it to the century mark.

George Martin and Matt Scott (twice) also went further as they virtually guaranteed their Premiership play-off place, with a home semi-final not out of the equation.

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Leicester were forced into an early change when prop James Cronin left the field uneasily to be replaced by Tom West.

However, they immediately overcame that setback to take the lead as Pollard made a clear break from midfield before taking the lead for Kelly to collect and score.

It was then Exeter’s turn to pick up injury as center Solomone Kata limped off to be replaced by Rory O’Loughlin.

Exeter’s miserable start continued as they conceded a second try. From a ruck on the 22, an alert Van Poortvliet saw blind-side space to serve Ashton, who kicked ahead for his teammate to regain possession and score.

Exeter needed a quick answer and got it thanks to a solo effort from Sam Simmonds. The number eight ran a superb line to collect a pass from scrum-half Will Becconsall before dodging three defenders to crash.

The score allowed Simmonds to equal Neil Back’s record of 59 tries for a Premiership forward and was the catalyst for the Chiefs to dominate the early stages of the second quarter.

However, they failed to capitalize and it was Leicester who scored next when Pollard kicked a simple penalty after Woodburn had been booked for a deliberate knock-on.

Pollard was also responsible for the subsequent score, albeit unintentionally, when his cross-field kick was intercepted by Exeter center Sean O’Brien in front of intended target Anthony Watson.

O’Brien was supported by Becconsall and Sam Simmonds to give Hogg a simple break-in.

Exeter soon suffered another blow though, as O’Loughlin became the second Chiefs player to be sent off for a deliberate knock-on and Tigers capitalized immediately, Ashton collecting Watson’s kick for his 99th try in the Premiership and left his side with a 22-12 half-time lead.

Within three minutes of the restart, Leicester were awarded a controversial penalty try and with it collected the bonus point.

A superb volley from Jacob Wiese looked to have brought in an historic 100th try for Ashton, but TMO replays showed Woodburn had dived over the Tigers wing on the ground after being tackled by Hogg.

The referee ruled Ashton’s foot had been in contact, so instead of a historic score for the former England international, a penalty try was harshly awarded for Woodburn’s attack, with the Chiefs winger later sent off for a second yellow card.

However, Ashton was not to be denied as moments later he reached his century before Ben Youngs appeared off the bench to become the 37th player to reach 300 appearances for the club.

The Chiefs were in complete shock, so it came as no surprise when Martin and Scott added more tries for the home side before Ashton completed his hat-trick to take the Tigers over 50 points.

There was still time for Scott to score his second try and Leicester’s ninth before Tuima wrapped up proceedings with a consolation for Exeter, who suffered a seventh successive Premiership away defeat.

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