As calendars flip over to 2016, Harlequins’ fly-half Nick Evans looks like he will head into January leading the way in the race to win the Gilbert Golden Boot.
The Gilbert Golden Boot tots up the points scored by Aviva Premiership Rugby’s leading marksmen when it comes to a deadeye and a metronomic right or left foot.
Last year’s winner was Wasps' Andy Goode but so far it is Quins’ star Evans who is leading the way. The Kiwi has kicked his way to a personal tally of 85 points so far this season – with 21 penalties and 11 conversions – as Harlequins find themselves fourth in the table.
And if they are to stay in the semi-final spots then they will have to keep another contender for the Gilbert Golden Boot title quiet on Sunday as Evans and co take on Gloucester Rugby and Billy Twelvetrees.
While Evans has the fourth-best kicking accuracy in the league at 86.49 per cent and has been successful with his last six attempts, Twelvetrees has triumphed 70 per cent of the time, bisecting the posts 21 times from 30 efforts. However, that hasn’t stopped the Cherry & Whites captain from amassing 62 points from the tee to sit third in the Gilbert Golden Boot standings.
Sandwiched between Evans and Twelvetrees is Exeter Chiefs’ Gareth Steenson with 72 points, courtesy of 15 conversions and 14 penalties.
Chiefs are hunting down Saracens in second place in the Aviva Premiership Rugby table and Steenson’s kicking accuracy of 78.38 per cent has played a major part.
Saracens face Wasps on Sunday to stay at number one in the league and Charlie Hodgson has been key in helping them to top the table. The Aviva Premiership Rugby all-time top points scorer has 51 from the tee this season to sit fifth in the Gilbert Golden Boot standings and his accuracy of 87.50 per cent – having been successful with 21 out of 24 kicks – is bettered only by Newcastle Falcons’ Mike Delany, albeit the latter has only attempted 14 kicks at goal, missing once for a record of 92.86 per cent.
Completing the Gilbert Golden Boot top five is Northampton Saints’ Stephen Myler who has scored 55 points with his boot, sitting just behind Hodgson in the accuracy stakes with 86.96 per cent having been successful 20 times out of 23.
And Gilbert Ambassador Paul Grayson – who scored 1,193 points with his boot during his playing days with Northampton Saints – admits he can’t wait to see who ends up taking home the gong at the end of the season.
“Aviva Premiership Rugby is blessed with some of the best and most accurate kickers currently in the game,” said Grayson.
“A lot of people might look at a conversion or a penalty and think it looks easy but I can assure you that a lot of practice goes into the skill you see on match day. It is not only physical but also mental.
“The mental strength needed when a game can come down to a kick right at the death is immense and these guys are some of the best around and have been proving that again this season.
“Some big names have won the Gilbert Golden Boot in previous seasons, just look at George Ford last year, and while I wouldn’t want to predict who will win it this time around it looks like it will go right down to the wire.”
Current Gilbert Golden Boot Leaderboard
Nick Evans (Harlequins) – 85 points
Gareth Steenson (Exeter Chiefs) – 72 points
Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby) – 62 points
Stephen Myler (Northampton Saints) – 55 points
Charlie Hodgson (Saracens) – 51 points