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RugbyU: Ashton takes plaudits as Saracens go top

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

England wing Chris Ashton was singled out for his "exceptional" work by Saracens coach Mark McCall after the Londoners' 31-17 win over Bath on Sunday left them four points clear at the top of the English Premiership.

Although Ashton did not score any of Saracens' four tries at their Allianz Park home ground -- fellow England wing David Strettle crossed twice -- he had a key influence on the match with his off the ball running and support play.

Former rugby league wing Ashton, while well-regarded as a finisher, has seen other aspects of his game come under the spotlight.

But McCall is in no doubt the 26-year-old should feature in England's November Test campaign at Twickenham which pits Stuart Lancaster's emerging side against Australia, Argentina and New Zealand.

"Chris judges himself purely on whether he scores a try or not, but for the last two weeks he's been exceptional," McCall said.

"He's taken a lot of stick over the last 12 months or so for various aspects of his game but he was brilliant against Bath.

"One thing he's brilliant at is scoring tries and that will happen, but his work on the ball, his collisions and his kick chase were at an international level.

"It was a wonderful tackle on George Ford near the end, but the way he did things that aren't that sexy was important as well.

"David Strettle is 4-1 up in tries after three games, but Chris was exceptional. He's hungry to get better."

Alex Goode, returning from shoulder surgery, and Matt Stevens were Saracens' other try-scorers on Sunday as the hosts established a commanding 31-3 half-time lead that all but secured a third straight bonus-point win.

Saracens, once renowned for their defensive play and kicking game, have now scored 13 tries so far this season.

"Our attacking system is different, we made a big change in the summer," McCall explained.

"We had a system that was in place for three years that we felt in the summer was handicapping some of the players we have.

"We were looking for something which got our good ball carriers on the ball more often. It's much more flexible.

"It's a work in progress, we're nowhere near where we want to be with it, but you can see often Schalk Brits and the two Vunipolas got their hands on the ball."

Bath made six changes to the side that beat champions Leicester last time out but coach Mike Ford insisted the move was part of a long-term plan.

"You have to be deep inside our camp to understand what we're trying to do. There was a plan behind it. You don't throw any game," Ford said.

"It wasn't great. We were blown away in the first half, Saracens squeezed us really well and we compounded one or two things. They played really well."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130922/rugbyu-ashton-takes-plaudits-saracens-go-top