AUCKLAND, 1 Oct. - Captain Lewis Moody hailed England's second-half fightback after his side beat Scotland 16-12 in a thrilling Pool B match at Eden Park on Sunday night.
The Scots held a 9-3 lead at the interval, which Chris Paterson extended with a 54th-minute penalty, but Jonny Wilkinson landed a drop goal and penalty for England before Ashton's converted try sealed his side's victory.
"It was a fantastic performance by our boys," said Moody. "We knew Scotland would come out with all their fire, but in the second half we countered it and came out on top in a few of the scrums.
"Scotland played a fantastic match and made it incredibly difficult for us but we came out on the right side in the end."
Scotland fly half Ruaridh Jackson hobbled off injured in the fourth minute to be replaced by Dan Parks.
Full back Paterson kicked the Scots ahead four minutes later after Dan Cole was penalised at a scrum.
England were struggling at set pieces and when they conceded an eighth penalty after 15 minutes Parks extended the lead to six points, the TMO confirming his pot shot from 10 metres inside the English half had cleared the crossbar.
Wilkinson saw an 18th-minute penalty drift left and another kick from him fell short of the target three minutes later. Wilkinson got a chance to make amends almost immediately when Scotland were penalised at the breakdown but missed again.
The fly half made no mistake when the Scots gave away a fourth penalty, getting his team off the mark with a well-struck kick from the left.
But the Scots restored their six-point advantage when Parks landed a drop goal before the break. An indifferent night with the boot got worse for Wilkinson three minutes after the restart when he missed a drop goal attempt from in front of the posts.
Paterson landed his second penalty of the night after the English gave away yet another scrum penalty.
Wilkinson found his shooting boots to claw his side back to within three points when he sent over a superb drop goal followed minutes later by a sweetly-struck penalty.
Scotland's hopes of qualifying took a huge knock when Ashton got on the end of a superb long pass from Toby Flood to go over at the corner. Flood added the extras with a terrific conversion from the touchline.