The Alternative Gallagher Premiership Rugby Awards
With another Gallagher Premiership Rugby season wrapped up there is finally a little bit of breathing space to sit back and reflect on an enthralling season.
It seems like a lifetime ago that Alapati Leiua scored the winning try for Bristol Bears against Bath Rugby in the season opener before 134 further games spanned a full nine months.
So much has happened between that game and the moment Saracens sealed a second successive Gallagher Premiership Rugby crown in a record-breaking final, it is hard to remember it all – but that is what we are here for.
The #GallagherPrem‘s very own Laurel and Hardy 👨🎨👨🚀
We’ll let you decide who’s who…🤨
The consummate professionals 💪 here’s a look at some of the tomfoolery that has taken place this year🎙
Name a more iconic duo? We’ll wait.. pic.twitter.com/5ax3umJC7l
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) June 5, 2019
Danny Cipriani became only the second person after Wasps’ Jimmy Gopperth to win the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Player of the Year and the RPA Player of the Year in the same campaign.
Denny Solomona and Cobus Reinach shared the Follador Top Try Scorer award with 12 tries a-piece and George Ford earned the Gilbert Golden Boot but it is not the official awards we are interested in here.
The beauty of Gallagher Premiership Rugby is that it throws up the weird and wonderful and so without further ado here are the best of them over the course of the season.
The Gallagher Premiership Rugby Alternative Awards:
The Beast Mode Award
Gargantuan winger Taqele Naiyaravoro wasted no time in making his presence felt on his Northampton Saints debut as he collected the ball, breezed past one Saracens defender and eyed up an onrushing Billy Vunipola before sending the England No.8 to the dirt.
Worcester Warriors’ GJ van Velze also sent Christian Wade packing in their opening-day defeat to Wasps, while Jake Polledri made light work of the tackles in Gloucester Rugby’s win over Bristol Bears.
- Taqele Naiyaravoro
- GJ Van Velze
- Jake Polledri
The Front-rowers Acting like Backs Award
You don’t get 87 caps for Australia (and five tries) without hard work, obvious talent and a few tricks up your sleeve too.
And Leicester Tigers’ Tatafu Polota-Nau proved that when he picked up a bouncing restart from Harlequins and immediately set off at break neck speed evading all the outstretched arms of defenders on a 50-yard sprint.
At the perfect moment, the 33-year-old noticed Jonah Holmes up in support with him and offloaded for the winger to do the rest.
Also in contention are Kyle Sinckler for his crafty no-look pass to Danny Care against Wasps and Newcastle Falcons hooker Jamie Blamire for his scintillating score against Sale Sharks in the Premiership Rugby Cup.
- Tatafu Polota-Nau
- Kyle Sinckler
- Jamie Blamire
Worst Haircut of the Year Award
What is it with rugby players and their hair?
We have some seen some elaborate trims over the years from Joe Marler’s ‘sausage head’ episode to the iconic mullet of Jack Nowell, but Joe Latta’s half-a-head-of-hair episode might just take your biscuit.
Like his teammate Nowell, Tomas Francis is another fan of the wacky mullet cut but Bath’s Max Clark can probably feel a little hard done by to get a mention – but his flowing locks, though impressive are perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea.
- Joe Latta
- Tomas Francis
- Joe Marler
The Wheels Award
It won’t be a surprise to see the Northampton Saints’ scrum-half on this list and he has owned the breakaway try this season.
Told as a teenager that he was too small to play on the wing, there will be very few of the same belief now and his intercepted try against Exeter Chiefs just after Christmas just goes to show he is up there with the fastest in the league.
Reinach is certainly not alone in the speed stakes though with Wasps’ Marcus Watson showing exactly what he is capable of by catching a Leicester Tigers high-ball and running it 70 yards up the other end for a try and Harlequins’ Nathan Earle with an intercept try of his own against Newcastle.
- Cobus Reinach
- Marcus Watson
- Nathan Earle
The Wonder-pass Award
Such is the quality of the No.10 position in Gallagher Premiership Rugby – there was no shortage of outrageous passes completed over the course of the season.
But Saracens youngster Max Malins perhaps produced the pick of the bunch with his jinking run through the Leicester Tigers defence, a series of dummy passes out to the wing and then a huge pass in the other direction for Alex Lewington to collect and score.
Danny Cipriani has been the architect of so many impossible passes over the years but his 30-yarder to Charlie Sharples has got to be up there with his best while Matt Toomua’s massive launch to Jonny May made sure George Ford’s incredible break was not in vain.
- Max Malins
- Danny Cipriani
- Matt Toomua
The Acrobatic Finish Award
There aren’t too many better sights in rugby than the outstretched arm of a winger moving perilously close to touch as they attempt to ground the ball over the whitewash.
And Tom Marshall’s try to haul Gloucester back into the game against Bristol Bears was the epitome of that motion, twisting and turning his body in mid-air in order to make sure the points ended up on the board.
Joe Cokanasiga produced another shining example of the feat when he converted Jonathan Joseph’s stab through against Newcastle Falcons and scrum-half Will Cliff leapt over to score an opportunistic try in Sale Sharks’ win over Bristol.
- Tom Marshall
- Joe Cokanasiga
- Will Cliff
Big Hitter Award
Some shrewd business, emerging talent and a back-bone of experienced leaders… 🌟
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) June 5, 2019
Perhaps the most prestigious award for any bruising forward to collect is the prize for the biggest hit of the season and this year there are three bruisers on the shortlist.
Harlequins’ Kyle Sinckler is the first for his brick-wall defence against Exeter’s Joe Simmonds. The moral of the story is this: Do not get in his way.
What is worse than taking a hit from a hefty front-row forward? Taking a hit from two hefty front-row forwards and that is exactly what happened to Jamie Roberts when he ran into Bristol’s James Lay and John Afoa.
A notable mention also goes to Anton Bresler who made 6ft 7in Alex Cuthbert look like a sack of feathers when Worcester Warriors met Exeter earlier this year.
- Kyle Sinckler
- James Lay & John Afoa
- Anton Bresler
The Weird and Wonderful Award
And last but by no means – the gong for the most bizarre moment of the season.
After having his shirt pulled off by Bath’s Tom Dunn, GJ van Velze’s cheeks showed no signs of turning red with embarrassment and instead he re-joined Worcester’s defensive line as if nothing had happened at all.
He then set off down the pitch in chase of Francis Hougaard’s clearance kick before referee Ian Tempest finally caught up with him an insisted he cover himself up.
Another referee to make his presence felt on this pitch this season was Craig Maxwell-Keys when he inadvertently stopped Leicester Tigers’ Adam Thompstone from breaking away and scoring against Sale Sharks.
And Harlequins’ Joe Marchant scored perhaps the strangest try of the season when he leapt highest to catch a wind-swept kick at goal from Marcus Smith in the narrow home defeat to Saracens.
But for his blue language, Joe Marler would have topped the list as he made his feelings about the length of time Exeter were taking to clear their lines quite apparent – maybe next year Joe.
- GJ Van Velze
- Craig Maxwell-Keys
- Joe Marchant