Chris Ashton retirement unearths the greatest mystery in rugby history
By Rugby Onslaught

Chris Ashton retirement unearths the greatest mystery in rugby history

In tribute to the retiring Chris Ashton, the Top 14 recently shared a montage of the record breaking haul of 24 tries that the winger scored during his one season with Toulon in 2017-18.

It is impressive viewing, but there seems to be a very clear theme that runs through his finishes, and one he would surely be the first to admit. The former England winger gave his own unique spin on the phrase ‘standing on the shoulders of giants,’ with ‘running off the shoulders of giants.’

In one clip Ashton was supporting Semi Radradra a try, the next he was supporting Josua Tuisova, the next Ma’a Nonu and the next Malakai Fekitoa, and that was more or less repeated for all 24 tries. To be fair, the lion’s share of assists seemed to go to Radradra, who on a number of occasions was just a few metres from the line, and probably could have scored himself, after beating about 10 players from the opposition before popping the ball to Ashton. There were a couple of solo efforts from the 44-cap Englishman himself, but the bulk from his finishes came by supporting the world class players inside him- but that is what he did better than anyone else in the game.

But after watching a montage like that, there is one question that is surely on everyone’s lips: how the hell did Toulon not win anything that season?

To go with the welter of backline stars already mentioned, Toulon also had Mathieu Bastareaud that season as well, which formed easily the most fearsome backline in Europe. Then again, backs alone are not going to win a team any championships. However, Toulon also had Duane Vermeulen, Mamuka Gorgodze, Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, Romain Taofifénua and Guilhem Guirado in their pack as well, to name a few!

But the best the team could muster was fourth place in the Top 14, losing to fifth place Lyon in the semi-final qualifier, and a quarter-final exit to Munster in the Heineken Champions Cup. That is despite having not only the league’s top try scorer, but some of the very best players in the world. A mystery.

Take a look at his highlights reel: