London – England suffered an embarrassing mauling at the hands of the Barbarians as Chris Ashton’s three-try haul condemned the hosts to a 63-45 defeat in Sunday’s non-cap international.
Eddie Jones’ under-strength side succumbed to a fourth successive defeat thanks to Toulon star Ashton’s virtuoso display at Twickenham.
Ashton, 31, was making his first appearance against the nation he won 39 caps for until departing for France last year.
He seized the opportunity to remind Jones of his class with three tries rounded off with his celebratory ‘Ash Splash’.
England were outscored 9-6 on the try count despite fielding seven regular Test starters, all of whom were involved in the Six Nations, and having been in camp for two weeks.
It was a painful afternoon for Jones as he looked to step up England’s preparations for next month’s tour to South Africa.
The experiment of playing Elliot Daly at fullback worked until Henry Trinder’s concussion-enforced exit forced him to slot in at outside centre.
Jones used Mike Brown on the left wing to see if the Harlequins fullback can cover multiple positions at the World Cup and by the third minute he had his answer.
Josua Tuisova showed Brown a clean pair of heels to tee up Ashton for an extravagant finish and soon after the wing was over for his second after gathering Finn Russell’s chip.
England were struggling and Victor Vito capitalised by spinning over from close range.
Daly stemmed the flow after an overlap was exploited and the frantic pace continued when hooker Jack Singleton charged through a hole before feeding Piers Francis the scoring pass.
Ashton’s hat-trick arrived in the 25th minute, slick passing and movement providing the chance, before a slippery run from Daly ended when Zach Mercer crossed.
The score was levelled at the half-hour mark when George Ford released Francis to score, before Ashton raced through a gap to send Russell over.
A weak tackle from Chris Robshaw waved Semi Radradra over for the Barbarians’ sixth try, but a penalty by Ford and a Joe Launchbury try from close range reduced the gap between the rivals to four points.
Sitaleki Timani crossed over before Greig Laidlaw popped up on the right wing to put the result beyond doubt.
In an action-packed finale, there was still time for a try from Jonny May and a second for Vito.