The 21-year-old Sale Sharks forward came off the bench after only 11 minutes of the 15-13 victory over Australia at BT Murrayfield, replacing the injured George Turner. He played with a maturity that belied his rookie status, culminating in a second-half try befitting an NFL wide receiver.
Ashman took a pass from Pierre Schoeman wide on the left and was airborne as he touched the ball down in the corner despite the efforts of Australia’s Izaia Perese to force him into touch.
“He scored one a few weeks ago [for Sale] which was exactly the same,” said Townsend.
“A play up the short side and as the cover defence came across he had to dive so his feet were over the line as he stretched to put the ball down, so that was good practice but this was an even tougher finish because the defence was really on top of him.
“What a way to get your first cap for Scotland. ”
Hamish Watson put Scotland ahead with a well-worked try but Australia came storming back with a score from Rob Leota. Ashman’s moment of brilliance put Scottish noses in front again but they fell behind once more in the final quarter and Finn Russell’s 68th-minute penalty proved to be the match-winning moment.
Ashman was part of Scotland’s summer squad but was denied a cap when the tour was called off due to Covid. He looked to be third choice hooker for the autumn but when Stuart McInally fell ill, he was promoted to the bench. Turner’s rib injury then saw him introduced far earlier than expected.
“He’s had to wait but as we said to him after the game, he’s only 21 so he’s not had to wait that long,” added Townsend.
“He’s so keen to play for Scotland. He was such a proud player in our under-20s and he’s not had a lot of opportunities this year with Sale but he’s always come into our camp humble but ambitious.
“We had real faith in him during the week as soon as he got the news he’d been selected. He’s been confident around training.
“I thought he responded to the responsibility of playing for his country and did very well. He’s a very good player already but he is someone who can get better and better over the next few years.”
Ashman’s commitment to Scotland meant there was little chance of him having his head turned when England tried to lure him away.
Born in Canada to Scottish parents but raised in England, he was eligible for all three countries.
“He’s always made it known to us that when he’s invited to training camps that he’s been really honoured and loved being here,” said Townsend.
“He did phone me one time that an England coach had spoken to him at training. He phoned me up to say, ‘just to let you know I’m 100 per cent committed to Scotland so if you hear anything about me being asked to play for England there are no worries on that side’.”