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Double delight for Newcastle Falcons at Premiership Rugby Awards

Double delight for Newcastle Falcons at Premiership Rugby Awards

Newcastle Falcons’ scintillating season could yet end with them lifting the Aviva Premiership Rugby title at Twickenham, but whatever happens they did collect two pieces of silverware at last night’s Premiership Rugby Awards.

Flying Fijian winger Vereniki Goneva capped off an impressive campaign by being named Aviva Premiership Rugby Player of the Season, while boss Dean Richards walked away as the Ricoh Director of Rugby of the Season.

The Falcons are enjoying their best Aviva Premiership Rugby campaign since they lifted the title two decades ago, with a first semi-final in their history now awaiting against Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park on Saturday.

Goneva saw off stiff competition for his award as Sale Sharks scrum-half Faf De Klerk and Northampton Saints’ Jamie Gibson – two of only four players to feature in all 22 Rounds of Aviva Premiership Rugby this season – as well as Exeter Chiefs back-rower Don Armand and Wasps fly-half Danny Cipriani were also shortlisted.

The 34-year-old has run in for a joint league-high 13 tries and Newcastle skipper Will Welch – who collected the award on behalf of Goneva – claims the importance of their talisman can’t be overstated.

“He’s been massive for us this season,” said Welch. “He’s scored some pretty important tries and he makes something from nothing at times when we need something to happen.

“He’s a big reason why we are where we are. He’s really professional and knows how to act.

“He’s a pretty quiet bloke behind the scenes but he’s in unbelievable nick for his age – he’s in phenomenal shape and he looks after himself.

“If only I had his genetics, maybe I would be picking this award up myself instead of for him!

“But this is fine by me because he’s been class all year and throughout his whole career, so he deserves all the accolades he gets.”

Goneva was named Aviva Premiership Rugby Player of the Season – succeeding last year’s winner, Wasps’ Jimmy Gopperth – by a panel of judges, with his award confirmed during a glittering ceremony at London’s Royal Lancaster Hotel.

Richards also received his Ricoh Director of Rugby of the Season gong on the evening, after masterminding Newcastle’s stellar campaign, having steered them to fourth in the table after finishing eighth last year and 11th the campaign before.

Fellow top-four directors of rugby Rob Baxter of Exeter Chiefs and Saracens’ Mark McCall were also shortlisted for the award but it was Richards who took the crown from last year’s winner Dai Young of Wasps.

The former Leicester Tigers and Harlequins coach was on hand at the Royal Lancaster to collect his award and insists it is his squad who deserve all the credit.

“It’s nice to receive this award but it reflects on the team more than anything,” said Richards. “I’m massively proud of how far the team has come in recent years.

“Four or five years ago, everybody thought we would be bottom of the pile and this year it’s a different thing altogether.

“It’s nice and we’re enjoying it while it lasts. You work hard to improve year in and year out and eventually you’ll start leapfrogging teams, which is ultimately what we’ve done.”

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