Try of the tournament
Despite the number of tries dwindling worryingly after such a promising start, there were actually plenty of contenders for this award. Either of Cuthbert’s brace on the final day would be worthy winners for their drama alone, while Wesley Fofana’s power and guile at Twickenham and Simon Zebo’s audacious flick in the build up to Cian Healy’s try both deserve mentions. Brian O’Driscoll’s mesmeric pass for Zebo himself to score on that opening day was something special, too.
However, for individual brilliance this award goes to Stuart Hogg for his effort against Italy. The Azzurri were seemingly in under the posts, with a two-on-one. That one was Hogg, who proceeded to intercept the pass, explode out of the blocks, step his way through a forest of stunned Italians before turning on the afterburners and sprinting to the line. Murrayfield went mad, and rightly so.
Player of the tournament
Louis Picamoles’ brutish brilliance in a distinctly average French team is highly commendable, as is Sergio Parisse’s leadership of Italy which consistently galvanises them to reach new heights. Both were titanic all tournament (bar the one game Parisse missed).
However this can only really go to one man, who stood head and shoulders (ironic given his stature) above the rest for his continued excellence: Leigh Halfpenny. It was not just his exemplary goal-kicking that stood out; it was his bravery and technique under the high ball, his willingness to counter and his body-on-the-line last ditch tackling. Super stuff from the rock at the back.
Disappointment of the tournament
Sadly, plenty to choose from here also. The scrums were a mess once again – from a layman’s point of view it seems there needs to be yet another rule change to stop so much focus being on the ‘hit’. This would hopefully end the ridiculous run of free-kicks and penalties for early engagement the likes of which we saw in the Scotland v Wales game. It is tempting to mention the referees, but really they have such a tough job it will always leave somebody upset. Consistency is what they must strive for.
Ireland’s injury worries robbed us of a genuine title contender, although it did at least expose their glaring lack of depth, something that can only be good in the long term. That said, this award can only really go to the team who contrived to win the wooden spoon having been many people’s favourites going into the tournament: France. A combination of bizarre selections, fatigue and at times a worrying disinterest combined to give us a series of pitifully poor performances from the French. They weren’t even inconsistent this year – just plain bad. It was such a disappointment, given quality of players they do have.
Coach(es) of the tournament
Early frontrunners for this award included Stuart Lancaster, after guiding England to the brink of a Grand Slam, Scotland’s duo of Scott Johnson and Dean Ryan, who instilled in the players a belief they could win that had been lacking for years, and Jacques Brunel, who finally managed to get Italy to play some rugby.
In the end, though, it is split three ways. After a dismal opening half an hour against Ireland, and their eventual eighth loss on the bounce, Wales’ turnaround in fortunes is a minor miracle. Rob Howley, Shaun Edwards and Robin McBryde must take plenty of the credit for inspiring their team to eventually win the championship, and in such emphatic style. Edwards in particular was fantastic – after his Lions snub, and consequently revealing he considered quitting rugby altogether, he masterminded the Welsh defence to avoid conceding a try for four games in a row.
Game of the tournament
Not a tough one, this. The opening weekend was exhilarating, but for pure drama and a restoration of faith in Northern Hemisphere rugby, Wales’ 30-3 crushing of England on the final day wins this award hands down. In front of a passionate, partisan crowd whipped into a frenzy in the closed arena of the Millenium Stadium, the Welsh simply blew England away. There were even a couple of wonderful tries, too. It was the finale the competition was desperately crying out for.
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43
Coming soon: The 2013 Six Nations Alternative Awards, celebrating all that was weird and wonderful in this year’s championship.