Looking back at 2014
The ESPNscrum Awards - Retallick, rugby and rants
Tom Hamilton
December 30, 2014
It has been Brodie Retallick's year © Getty Images

As the curtain comes down on 2014, we hand out some end-of-year awards to those who have had us on the edge of our seat, the players who have left an indelible mark on the past 12 months and those who have had made the headlines for the wrong reasons.

Player: There have been memorable performances from the ageless Richie McCaw, bulldozing Springbok No.8 Duane Vermeulen, England outside centre Emily Scarratt and Ireland skipper Paul O'Connell but Brodie Retallick has stood head and shoulders above the rest. He scooped the World Rugby Player of the Year gong and will no doubt be a star of next year's World Cup.

Coach: England's Gary Street had a superb 2014 as did Glasgow's Gregor Townsend and All Blacks boss Steve Hansen but for sheer impact and consistency, we feel Ireland's Joe Schmidt is just ahead of the chasing pack. He delivered Ireland the Six Nations and then enjoyed a November Test series where they saw off South Africa, Georgia and Australia. Ireland are looking to be hitting their straps at just the right time.

Match: The recent match-up between Northampton and Leicester was a remarkable game as was Ireland's win over France in the Six Nations. Canada's win over France in the 2014 World Cup semi-finals was also a fantastic match but the one that sits fondest in our memory was South Africa's win over New Zealand in the Rugby Championship. For emotional value, Argentina's maiden triumph in the southern hemisphere competition was also a great occasion.

Moment: For everything the Samoan players had to endure in the run-up to their match against England in November, they acquitted themselves well at Twickenham. The match itself was by no means an epic but the sight of England and Samoa's players kneeling united at the end typified what rugby is all about.

Try: The official award went to Francois Hougaard but witnessing Magali Harvey's end of the world effort in the semi-finals of the 2014 Women's World Cup was special. It was a brilliant display of pace and prowess and deservedly sits atop the tree of fantastic tries.

Man: Rugby has mourned the passing a few of its heroes this year but 13-year-old Luis Ghaut left a long-lasting impression on English rugby. The Saints' mascot for their Premiership final lost his battle with cancer in September but warmed the hearts of those he met. http://www.lu15.co.uk/

Woman: If anyone deserved the World Cup triumph it was Maggie Alphonsi but England's captain Katy Mclean was the team's figurehead throughout their victorious campaign.

Team: Ireland had a superb 2014 as did the All Blacks. At domestic level the Waratahs, Toulon and Northampton enjoyed good years but for what they did for women's rugby, Street's England deserve this accolade.

England's Katy Mclean holds aloft the World Cup, England v Canada, 2014 Women's Rugby World Cup, Stade Jean-Bouin, Paris, August 17, 2014
Our team of the year © Getty Images

Rant: In an age where players are mollycoddled by various media and PR officers, Martin Castrogiovanni's expletive-filled rant against Richard Cockerill was a break from the norm.

Quote: Nick 'The Honey Badger' Cummins' unique answers to questions have provided some glee but Bernard Laporte's assessment of Jonny Wilkinson was a wonderful summation of the great fly-half: "I had hated him, feared him, detested him, before I came to adore him. How can one resist the charm of such a man?"

Reluctant farewell: Following on from the above, rugby bid farewell to two great servants - Brian O'Driscoll and Jonny Wilkinson.

International Exile: Quite how Australia can continue to overlook the superb Matt Giteau and Salesi Ma'afu only they know while European Player of the Year Steffon Armitage remains out of the England reckoning at Toulon.

Find: Wales' Rhys Webb has been box office but Malakai Fekitoa went from Super Rugby obscurity to the All Blacks in the blink of an eye. The centre looks to have it all and could be the long-term replacement for Conrad Smith whenever Father Time decides his New Zealand days are over.

Outclassing: The All Blacks' first-half performance against England in the third June Test was a case of men against boys. They led 29-6 and it looked bleak for England. They rallied in the second-half but that first 40 was remarkable.

The New South Wales Waratahs celebrate breaking their title drought, New South Wales Waratahs v Crusaders, Super Rugby grand final, ANZ Stadium, Sydney, August 2, 2014
The Waratahs stormed to a maiden Super Rugby title © Getty Images

Surprise: The Waratahs were not really regarded as favourites for the Super Rugby crown when the first ball was kicked in anger this year but they used a team unity to create a momentum which saw them eventually win their maiden title. It was a superb feat from Michael Cheika and his team.

Disappointment: The Wallabies' front-row. They have a superb array of backs, talent to keep you on the edge of the seat but no platform from which to launch the likes of Tevita Kuridrani, Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Matt Toomua.

Occasion: The semi-final between Canada and France at the Stade Jean-Bouin was an honour to be at but the USA's match against the All Blacks in Chicago felt like the start of a new beginning for rugby in America.

Shocker: Kosuke Hashino's blunder in the Hong Kong leg of the Sevens World Series has received plenty of attention and rightly so.

Punch-up: The West Country derby between Bath and Gloucester had an impressive dose of fisticuffs in the last few minutes of the match but this recent brawl in France scoops this award.

Ongoing tit-for-tat scrap: The on-going verbals between Toulon supremo Mourad Boudjellal and Racing Metro owner Jacky Lorenzetti have increased in recent weeks with Racing breaking the £1 million mark to bring in Dan Carter while Boudjellal responded by bringing in four impressive signings of his own. The odd dig about salary caps and success have provoked increasingly witty responses from the defendant and this looks to be a scrap that will continue well into 2015.

There promises to be many more fireworks in 2015 © Getty Images
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Tom Hamilton is the Associate Editor of ESPNscrum.

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