Northampton must cope with double suspension setback

I’m struggling to remember the last time three members from the same team appeared at individual disciplinary hearings on the same day. Yet three ‘Saints’ travelled down to London last night to face the wrath of His Honour Jeff Blackett and learn their fates.

It comes at a poignant time in Northampton’s season, made all the more so with the latest suspensions of Phil Dowson and Chris Ashton. When you consider who are the real big players that Saints would struggle without, those two end up near the top of the list. Dowson is acclaimed for his work at both breakdown and the lineout, a competitor to the end, inspirational to follow with his physical approach to the game. Maybe it’s having spent years struggling with Newcastle that has made him the player he is today. Lose that dynamism, that intensity, and those narrow margins that you normally edge in a match go against you.

Which brings us to Ashton. General reaction, roughly 80%, suggests that the rugby public wanted him to be punished. Two weeks was expected, six weeks the original sentence given, before being cut down to four weeks for good behaviour both in the past and at the hearing.

It’s hard to believe that a year ago, Ashton was thought of so highly by the public following that try at Twickenham against the Wallabies. What followed was disappointment domestically with Northampton, the agony of the Heineken Cup final, and then the disaster of the World Cup where Ashton was heavily involved in seemingly all that was negative. On coming back to play for Saints, he was chastised by public and media for seemingly giving up in the build-up to the Scarlets bonus point try. Not forgetting the perhaps ill-timed publication of an autobiography. And now this suspension.

It’s a pity, because despite his popularity disintegrating, Ashton has scored four tries in six games for Northampton since his return, including a blinder against Leicester last weekend. Northampton can cope with his loss, through Vasily Artemyev, Paul Diggin and Scott Armstrong, but it’s in the back row where Dowson’s absence will hit them hardest.

Already without Calum Clark due to a fractured thumb, whilst Roger Wilson is also unavailable following an elbow injury against Leicester, Northampton were lucky that Wood was also not banned, given that they only have Ben Nutley, Samu Manoa and 19 year old Jamie Warr left, a flanker who is yet to make a start. Fail to defeat Castres over the next fortnight in the Heineken Cup, and Northampton will have lost five out of their last six.

by Ben Coles

16 thoughts on “Northampton must cope with double suspension setback

  1. Can’t believe that Ashton’s suspension was cut for good behaviour – what do you have to do to get a reputation?! Having said that, 4 weeks is probably about right if not a little harsh IMO. 6 weeks wouldn’t have been right.

    I think someone needs to take Ashton aside and lay the law down about what he should be doing and not doing. Magnificent talent, but once again might not live up to his full potential if he doesn’t work at it.

    I have moaned time and time again about these closeted athletes not realising how lucky they are, and not seeming to have a proper grasp on reality due to a lack of life experience, and this to my mind is another example of this. More perspective would give better rugby intelligence and more drive to excel. I think the acadamies are failing the players and the wider public in this regard.

    1. I agree on the lack of perspective, and think that was a big factor in the RWC tour disaster. I don’t know what the answer is though.

      I don’t think it’s related to this slightly comical hair-pulling episode though – surely that was just a heat of the moment ‘accident’ and not pre-meditated at all.

      1. 4 weeks for an act contrary to good sportsmanship. I understand the ban and citing. 4 weeks is a little harsh for something that wasn’t premeditated.

        Now I can understand no further action being taken against Tuilagi, but surely Wood and Murphy should have felt the wrath of the citing commission?

        1. Hard to say. Best bit of the PR was ” Without any laid down guidance on the sanction…” Conjured up an image of Blackett and the QC sat there going; “How exactly do you punish a violent act normally found with girls at school?”

      2. Hutch, I was referring to this in the wider context of Ashton not being grown up and needing to take his life in his hands so that he achieves everything he can achieve without squandering the talent that he has. Antics in NZ all form part of this picture. The hair pulling, while fairly minor in itself is part of this bigger picture.

        Pulling the hair in the first place was an accident. Not letting go was and continuing to pull seems ridiculous.

  2. Dowsons suspension is ridiculous – nothing wrong with that tackle, are the powers that be determined to take the hard tackles out the sport?

    As for Ashton, kid got what he deserved, but its an offence that i have witnessed many times down the years that often happens in the heat of the moment – i have dreadlocks, and part an parcel of that is they are going to get pulled.

    I love how every one is jumping on Ashtons back now, grow up people! Whats he done, other than score trys, which is all i care that he does.

    1. I’m not on his back for the good things he does on the pitch – great talent, but I am on his back for the way he behaves generally, which I think will lead to him wasting his talent to become possibly one of the foremost wings in the world. He would not only be shortchanging us as supporters but also himself by not becoming the best that he could be (which in my book is one of the greatest crimes in the world!).

      Yes he scores tries but don’t you want him to score more! That’s why I’ve gone off on one and climbed on his back.

  3. In further backing up what I’ve said, I give you Gavin Henson, Andy Powell and Cipriani. All potentially world class talents which they briefly flashed on the international stage, undone by a lack of motivation and common sense. I for one don’t want to see Ashton go the same way.

    1. yep all well said Staggy, I agree and feel the same way about Ashton, but would ban him from England for 1 year. Reason is that he can then write about it in his next autobiography, The one that should be written at a more appropriate time when he has earned the right to. He has the wrong attitude and needs to be excluded from England to really gain more perspective.

      1. Hmmm. I have to say that an autobiography at this stage does seem a little premature and I do think he needs to gain perspective, but I’m not sure that banning him from the England set up for a year is the answer. I had in mind the people at Saints and England sitting him down and setting out his priorities and laying down the law. If he fails after that well ………

        1. I think at 24 years old and having been in the team a matter of months, it shows all he thinks about is himself..

          I want true passionate players,that strive to be the best they can, and want nothing more than to play for their country. Imagine the honor of playing for your country ? WOW what a thing! and to disrespect it, and all us fans and supporters?. It is a crime worthy of a ban, that might turn him into a man !

          Of course other forces have not helped, The coaching set up allowed the behavior that we all heard about, the RFU etc…

          Thinking about it maybe you are right because we are going to get a fresh start, new coach and all that.. So a good kick up the bum with a few harsh words in a new environment and less swan dives, should do the trick. And he does make you laugh !

          Come On Englaaaaaaaaaaand ! ! !

  4. I think that Ashton might have been ill advised (I am assuming top rugby players have advisers??!) in his conduct. Certainly ill advised in writing an autobiography at this stage (I notice that it is half price already). Lets face it if you were going to buy one rugby related book for a christmas pressie, it would probably be Johnny W’s (although a Johnno one might be fascinating!!). Ashton, if you want to write a book wait until you’ve been at the top for 10 years and won a RWC. Then we’ll buy it!

  5. Just read the response to Ashton’s ban from Mallinder. Considered response. Admitted Ashton has done some things wrong and will work to be better in the future was the summary. Have to say, that is the response I was hoping for and hopefully Saints will work on improving him as a person and player. What more could you want.

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