The annual GUINNESS PRO12 Awards took place at the Guinness Storehouse, Dublin, this evening. Players, coaches and key personnel from all 12 teams involved in the league were in attendance to celebrate the 2015/16 season.
The black-tie event followed a memorable round 22 on Saturday that saw Leinster, Connacht, Glasgow Warriors and Ulster qualify for the GUINNESS PRO12 play-offs in less than a fortnight’s time.
Connacht, who have been the surprise package of the 2015/16 season, collected three awards and made up nearly half of the PRO12 Dream Team.
The westerners’ powerful centre Bundee Aki clinched the coveted Guinness Players’ Player of the Season – voted for by all 12 captains and vice-captains of the PRO12 teams – ahead of Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors) and CJ Stander (Munster).
Connacht’s head coach Pat Lam was named Guinness PRO12 Coach of the Season and captain John Muldoon, who is celebrating his thirteenth professional season at Connacht, received the prestigious Guinness PRO12 Chairman’s award from Welsh rugby legend and Chairman of PRO12 Rugby, Gerald Davies.
The Ospreys’ 22-year-old out-half Sam Davies was voted ‘Young Player of the Season by a selected media panel ahead of Leinster duo Garry Ringrose and Josh van der Flier.
Fans voted Glasgow Warriors’ Tommy Seymour the winner of the Sky Sports Try of the Season. The Scottish international polled 28.5% of the vote for his round 18 try against Ulster and pipped Craig Gilroy (Ulster v Benetton Treviso, round 3) and Bundee Aki (Munster v Connacht, round 18) to the title.
The battle for the Rhino Golden Boot award went right down to the wire on the last day of the regular season. The prize, which is based on the percentage kicking accuracy of all players who have kicked more than 30 attempts at goal, was clinched by Cardiff Blues’ Gareth Anscombe with 81.25% (26 successes from 32 attempts) ahead of the Scarlets’ Steve Shingler (78.37%, 29 success from 37 attempts), Ulster’s Paddy Jackson (77.77%, 49 successes from 63 attempts) and Jason Tovey of Edinburgh (76.47%, 39 successes from 51 kicks).
Ulster won the Specsavers Fair Play award and £10,000 to spend on their youth development programme. The province pipped the Ospreys to the top of the Specsavers Fair Play League with just six yellow cards and no citing commissioner warnings, red cards or upheld proven citing complaints.
The PRO12 Dream Team, voted by a selected media panel from across Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales, saw Connacht dominate the selections with seven of their players making up the chosen 15:
15: Isa Nacewa (Leinster) (capt)
14: Matt Healy (Connacht)
13: Bundee Aki (Connacht)
12: Ben Te’o (Leinster)
11: Craig Gilroy (Ulster)
10: Sam Davies (Ospreys)
9: Kieran Marmion (Connacht)
1: Denis Buckley (Connacht)
2: Tom McCartney (Connacht)
3: Finlay Bealham (Connacht)
4: Leone Nakarawa (Glasgow Warriors)
5: Ultan Dillane (Connacht)
6: CJ Stander (Munster)
7: Josh van der Flier (Leinster)
8: Cornell du Preez (Edinburgh)
Following the end of the regular season, the focus now turns to the season play-offs – Leinster v Ulster at the RDS on Friday, May 20 (kick-off 7.45pm) and Connacht v Glasgow Warriors at the Sportsground on Saturday, May 21 (kick-off 6.30pm). The winners of each match will face each other at the league’s flagship event, the GUINNESS PRO12 final at BT Murrayfield on Saturday, May 28 (kick-off 5.30pm).
GUINNESS PRO12 AWARDS WINNERS:
Guinness Players’ Player of the Season: Bundee Aki (Connacht)
Guinness PRO12 Coach of the Season: Pat Lam (Connacht)
Guinness PRO12 Young Player of the Season: Sam Davies (Ospreys)
Sky Sports Try of the Season: Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors)
Specsavers Fair Play Award: Ulster Rugby
Rhino Golden Boot: Gareth Anscombe (Cardiff Blues)
Guinness PRO12 Chairman’s Award: John Muldoon (Connacht)