There were timely boosts for all four Magners League semi-final teams when they picked up trophies at the annual Magners League Awards dinner at Carton House Hotel in Kildare.
Table-topping Munster led the way as they picked up three major awards on the night with head coach Tony McGahan picking up the Coach of the Year title from one of his predecessor at the province, Ireland’s Declan Kidney.
Ronan O’Gara won the ‘Gilbert Golden Boot’ after emerging as the league’s most consistent marksman during the regular season, while Munster stalwart Alan Quinlan was named as the recipient of Andy Irvine’s Chairman’s Award following his remarkable 15 year career.
Munster host reigning champions the Ospreys at Thomond Park this coming Saturday in the second league semi-final.
The Welsh region also left the Maynooth venue with a trophy after centre Ashley Beck was voted as the winner of the Try of the Year gong for his effort against Glasgow Warriors at the Liberty Stadium.
Leinster, who welcome Ulster to the RDS this Friday for the first semi-final, left the Awards dinner with the Specsavers Fairplay Award.
The honour, which comes with a £10,000 prize to put towards youth development, is given to the team that gathers the fewest yellow and red cards over the 22 rounds of the regular season.
But there was also a major fillip for Ulster ahead of one of their biggest assignments of the season as their South African half-back Ruan Pienaar was handed the top prize on the night after being voted the Players’ Player of the Year.
Accepting his award, Pienaar said: “It has been an unbelievable first season for me at Ulster. I came to a place that I didn’t know but, thanks to the team, I settled in very quickly and enjoyed myself.
“It is going to be a massive challenge for everyone this weekend, but we will go to Dublin and enjoy the whole experience.”
The final award went to the rising forward star of Welsh rugby, Toby Faletau. The Newport Gwent Dragons back rower was announced as the Young Player of the Year by a panel of 19 journalists from around the four nations involved in the Magners League.
2010/11 MAGNERS LEAGUE AWARD WINNERS:
PLAYERS’ PLAYER OF THE YEAR – Ruan Pienaar (Ulster)
COACH OF THE YEAR – Tony McGahan (Munster)
YOUNG PLAYER OF THE YEAR – Toby Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons)
CHAIRMAN’S AWARD – Alan Quinlan (Munster)
TRY OF THE YEAR – Ashley Beck (Ospreys)
GILBERT GOLDEN BOOT – Ronan O’Gara (Munster)
SPECSAVERS FAIRPLAY AWARD – Leinster
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