Six Nations 2014 Awards

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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.

11 thoughts on “Six Nations 2014 Awards

  1. Excellent what a great year for the Irish!
    a wee typo there…
    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 France in Paris both went right down to the wire.

    Should read games against England and Ireland in Paris…

    Cheers, Brían

  2. The only one I would disagree on is the try of the tournament. For me it’s Care’s against Ireland (I’m English of it may be a slight bias) not only do I think it involved some great skill and awareness as well as link up play, how crucial in came to be, not only as it was the winning score but also dragged the momentum back towards England.

    While I appreciate the skill involved for Roberts’ try I think you have to remember the game was over as a contest and it was against a backline that was a man short.

    1. Graeme, I was going to say exactly the same thing about Roberts try. It was a great try but in the overall context of the game or the tournament didn’t make any difference. Whether this should make any difference to the voting is, however, not something that I am sure about.

  3. How about Mako Vunipola’s try?

    That has to be worth a nomination at least, if only for his victory jig before he realised what he was doing, and got embarrassed!

    Seriously though, I would go for Stuart Hogg as the disappointment, simply because none of the other disappointments were really a surprise.

    1. Mako’s try and ‘celebration’ had me in stitches. I have no idea what he was doing or if he was just shattered.

  4. Suggestion for your “Alternative” awards;

    Budding scrum-half of the tournament;
    Richie Gray and Paul O’Connell – who both seemed to be at the base of the breakdown, moving the ball on – often in excess of a couple of metres, more often than anyone else on that last saturday.
    If they can learn to box-kick in time for the 2015 6 nations, that would be a sight too see.

  5. Point of order, Brown was not sublime every minute he was on the pitch, against France he was pressed back into winger service and while he did manage to get a try (thanks in large part to Jack Nowell) it did serve to underline just how much better he is in his preferred position. Otherwise I agree with all of this, although had Halfpenny not managed to stop it Burrell’s try would have been a simple run-in for try of the tournament, it was sublime

  6. I’m being picky, as I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing that Roberts’ try was scored when Scotland had 114 men on the pitch? If so it makes it so much easier to score a try of this kind, as there is a lot more space in the defensive line.

    Personally I would go for Danny Care or Johnny Sexton.

  7. The camera work for the Jamie Roberts try is just appalling

    Also, is it just me or is the final pass from Faletau a wee bit forward?

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