Player of the tournament
Nominees: Danny Care, Mike Brown, Joe Launchbury, Devin Toner, Jamie Heaslip, Andrew Trimble, Taulupe Faletau
We’ve made our own list of nominees, ignoring the official one, but in the end the extended list is irrelevant as there can only be one winner. Mike Brown was sublime every minute he was on the pitch this championship, topping the stats for metres made, defenders beaten and clean breaks. What is more encouraging, however, is that he was joint top try-scorer, emphatically answering critics who said he did not score enough tries.
Honourable mention goes to all the other names on our list, but in reality none of them even came close.
Winner: Mike Brown
Emerging player of the tournament
Nominees: Luther Burrell, Alex Dunbar, Devin Toner, Chris Henry
This is a tricky one. Luther Burrell was a revelation for England, picking gainline-breaking lines all tournament and proving that there is life after Tuilagi, should the big(ger) man get injured. Alex Dunbar looks to be a Scottish centre with a complete skillset who has transferred his club form to the international stage, something that has happened on precisely zero occasions in the last few years (Matt Scott might disagree, but he has been frustratingly inconsistent).
Then we come to two unsung Irishmen, Devin Toner and Chris Henry. Both have a few caps but only really established themselves this tournament. Do not underestimate their importance to Ireland’s Championship. Toner’s ball-carrying was excellent for such a gangly-looking man, while what he brings to the lineout is obvious. The winner, however, is Chris Henry. Ireland’s top tackler, he went about his work quietly but it allowed the Peter O’Mahonys and Jamie Heaslips of this world to steal the headlines at the breakdown and in the carry. How to fit Sean O’Brien back into this unit will be a real headache for Schmidt.
Winner: Chris Henry
Game of the tournament
Nominees: France v England, England v Ireland, France v Ireland
Weirdly enough, France feature in two of our three nominees for game of the tournament, despite having a fairly average tournament in general. Their games against England and Ireland in Paris both went right down to the wire and were certainly amongst the most exciting matches, which makes their abject performances in Cardiff and Edinburgh all the more baffling.
The England v Ireland game at Twickenham, however, had everything. There were two brilliant tries, many more that could have been scored but for epic defence, and late drama as Launchbury tap tackled Dave Kearney on his way to a try-scoring opportunity that would have won the game for the Irish. Undoubtedly the game of the tournament.
Winner: England v Ireland
Disappointment of the tournament
Nominees: The Murrayfield pitch, France, Stuart Hogg, Scott Johnson, Italy
France were early frontrunners for this award, having once again proved how frustratingly inconsistent they are. Decent showings against England and Italy were followed by woeful performances against Wales and Scotland, before they redeemed themselves slightly with a plucky performance against Ireland. The Murrayfield pitch is an easy villain given its disruption to the games it hosted, while Stuart Hogg’s petulance in the final match was a worrying sign of a talented player whose attitude is starting to look all wrong. Italy’s wooden spoon was a huge disappointment given their performance last year.
The winner, though, has to be Scott Johnson, who has bewildered and frustrated Scotland fans (and players, in all likelihood, with rumours of a dressing room split) with his selection and tactics. His increasingly predictable jokes in press conferences have started to wear very thin, as performances deteriorated on the pitch culminating in that horror show in Cardiff. While the players must shoulder some of the blame, his treatment of certain players (like Kelly Brown) and continued refusal to pick the form men (like Chris Cusiter and Scott Lawson, initially) mean Scotland fans cannot welcome Vern Cotter quickly enough. The worry? Johnson is set to move up in the corridors of power at the SRU. Shudder at the thought.
Winner: Scott Johnson
Try of the tournament
Nominees: Hugo Bonneval v Italy, Alex Dunbar (no.2) v Italy, Danny Care v Ireland, Leonardo Sarto v Ireland, George North v Scotland, Jamie Roberts (either) v Scotland, Johnny Sexton (no.2) v France
We’ve been a touch spoilt this tournament haven’t we? Considering the paltry offerings last season the 2014 Six Nations has produced some sensational tries, from Hugo Bonneval’s debut effort to a Scottish backline set piece move executed to perfection (yes, you read that right) through to Jamie Roberts, George North and Jonathan Davies tearing it up against the Scots. There were many more – too many to mention – that would be worthy winners.
But which was the best? Leonardo Sarto’s finish against Ireland was arguably the individual effort of the tournament, but in terms of overall team skill look no further than Jamie Roberts’ second against Scotland. Dan Biggar’s miss-pass started it in the Wales twenty-two, before Liam Williams, a revelation at fullback, tore down the left flank. He gave the ball inside to Jonathan Davies who shipped it in to Taulupe Faletau, who drew in two defenders before offloading for Jamie Roberts to crash over. Sublime.
Winner: Jamie Roberts (no.2) v Scotland
Coach of the tournament
Nominees: Stuart Lancaster, Joe Schmidt
Just the two nominees here. Stuart Lancaster deserves great credit for the relaxed, happy environment he has created around this England team. It has shone through on the pitch, where the players have the freedom to express themselves and look like they want to play for each other.
However, there can only really be one winner. Joe Schmidt has turned this Ireland team around from the wretched outfit that almost finished the 2013 tournament last, to champions in 2014. He has brought a cohesiveness to the team and encouraged players to focus on the minutiae of their own game rather than overly worry about the opposition. Given Ireland’s player pool is largely the same as last year, this is a monumental achievement. Kudos to him for it.
Winner: Joe Schmidt (Ireland)
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images
Coming soon: The 2014 Six Nations Alternative Awards, a more light-hearted look at this year’s championship.