Leicester Tigers’ Chris Ashton says he was “desperate” to become the first player to score 100 Premiership tries – and fleetingly questioned his decision to retire after reaching the mark.
The treble came four days after Ashton confirmed he would hang up his boots at the end of the season.
“I almost thought ‘have I retired too early here?’ I felt good,” Ashton said.
He told BBC Radio Leicester: “I only left myself two games [to reach 100 tries] so I had to get it quickly.
“Maybe it’s the best way, just thinking ‘get on with it’. You need goals, pressure as a professional player and something to focus on.”
Ashton made his first league appearance in almost two months for the visit of fellow play-off hopefuls Exeter.
His history-making tries were his first since December and first under interim head coach Richard Wigglesworth, who replaced Steve Borthwick when he left for the England job.
Ashton immediately punched the air with joy when he went over for his second try against the Chiefs to become the first Premiership player to reach three figures.
His team-mates were quick to join his celebrations, with players on the bench also getting to their feet in wild scenes that rippled around the ground in honour of the competition’s all-time leading try scorer.
“In the last few weeks the lads have really been behind me and trying to help as much as they can,” added Ashton.
“They know how desperate I was to get it. When you are so close and you have team-mates wanting to help, I’m just very grateful to them for doing that for me.”
Tigers scrum-half Ben Youngs, who made his 300th appearance for the club in the win that puts the champions on the brink of securing a semi-final spot, said Ashton’s “achievement is amazing” and that he “couldn’t be more proud of him”.