And the winner is...
May 9, 2013
It has been another impressive season for a number of Leicester's players © Getty Images
The regular stage of the Aviva Premiership season is now over and we know the four teams vying for that piece of silverware come May 25. So after 22 rounds of pulsating action, this week's Scrum Sevens hands out some end-of-season awards.
Player of the Season
The shortlists have already been announced for both the Aviva and the Rugby Players' Association player of the season with the majority of the same names appearing on both. From the top of the league to the foot, players have shone for their respective clubs and unlike last term, where Chris Robshaw or Nick Evans were the obvious winners, it is difficult to just pick out a couple of players.
Gloucester's No.8 Sione Kalamafoni has had an exceptional campaign while Wasps' backs have put in notable showings alongside immense forward Joe Launchbury. Leicester have excelled with Geoff Parling and Julian Salvi at the forefront while Will Fraser has been superb for Saracens. And then there is London Irish's Halani Aulika, who has scored a remarkable 11 tries for the Exiles, and Northampton's Samu Manoa - both have been powerhouses in the pack.
But our Player of the Season is Leicester's Tom Youngs who has gone from Premiership bit part player to first choice England hooker and now a potential British & Irish Lion all in the space of nine months, it is an incredible feat.
© Getty Images
Coach of the season
Saracens and Leicester have been the two in-form sides this term but with their budget and talent at their disposal, anything less would be an outright failure. Saints' Jim Mallinder has gone about his business with quiet authority while Dai Young has managed to make last season's struggles firmly consigned to an ugly page in Wasps' sizeable history. And Exeter have once again impressed mixing a debut season in the Heineken Cup with some impressive wins, notably over Harlequins and Wasps, in the Premiership.
© Getty Images
But for sheer doggedness, courage and managing to continue making the odd quip in the midst of adversity, London Welsh's Lyn Jones gets the nod. They will, almost definitely, be playing rugby in the Championship next year but despite their turbulent season, Jones has carried out his role with dignity and can look back on this campaign with pride.
Young Player of the Season
It has been the season of the young guns. Wasps' Joe Launchbury, Elliot Daly and Billy Vunipola all shone while Billy's brother Mako was a colossus for Saracens and England. And Mako's team-mate Will Fraser was consistently superb throughout the course of 22 rounds. Then there was Exeter's Jack Nowell who is showing all the early attributes of a potential Test winger while Freddie Burns continues to put Gloucester on the front-foot at every available opportunity.
But for us, Christian Wade had us out of our seats in most of the matches he played in and simply must make his debut for England in Argentina this summer. He scored memorable try after try and is improving by the game in defence. Wasps are lucky to have him and England look set to reap the benefits as well.
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Try of the Season
There have been some spectacular efforts this season but for us, Dan Bowden's try against Saracens just about edges the rest of the bunch.
Game of the Season
There have been some absolute belters throughout the season with Exeter's stunning 40-39 win over Gloucester in the final match of the regular campaign right up there. Then there was Bath's memorable 27-26 triumph over Leicester and the Tigers' win at the Saints. And the season also got off to a memorable start with Harlequins fighting back to beat Wasps at Twickenham. But by the proverbial cat's whisker, our game of the season goes to Gloucester's 17-15 win over Harlequins - it was a joy to watch.
Gloucester played out a thriller against Quins
Hero of the Season
Exeter bid farewell to two of their favourite sons this season with No.8 Richard Baxter and prop Chris Budgen both opting to retire from professional rugby. The pair have been an absolute credit to the game and to the club with Baxter turning out 431 times for the Chiefs and Budge combining his Army and family duties with playing at tight-head for the Sandy Park side. The pair deserve statues in their honour.
As does Geordan Murphy who called time on his Leicester career earlier this week. With 316 appearances to his name and 90 tries for the Tigers, the one-club fullback is wonderfully unique.
But our hero of the season goes to London Welsh's Jonathan Mills. The captain has given everything for the club, including a few teeth, and he deserves every accolade following an impressive campaign. The lock has committed to the Exiles for the next couple of seasons but expect a few Premiership clubs to knock on his door come the summer tempting him with an offer he might just not be able to refuse.
Villain of the Season
Your average rugby supporter loves a pantomime villain and Danny Cipriani fits the bill this season. Sale had a distinctly average campaign by their high standards and Cipriani never quite found his feet this term. He showed moments of brilliance, but they were merged with defensive frailties and high profile criticism from the team's management. And then he was hit by a bus - you have to feel for him.
But he does not deserve to be named villain of the season - for that 'honour' there is one stand out candidate - London Welsh's former team manager Mike Scott.
His actions concerning Tyson Keats' passport led to the side being hit with a five-point penalty and the announcement took the wind firmly out of the Exiles' sails. It was a huge shame for the side who surprised many by their early season form, but while he slopes off into the rugby-tinted sunset, Welsh will now have to battle for their lives next season in the Championship.
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