Ulster duo pick up PRO 12 awards at gala event

Charles Piutau of Ulster is tackled by Kieron Fonotia and Ashley Beck of Ospreys.
Charles Piutau of Ulster is tackled by Kieron Fonotia and Ashley Beck of Ospreys.
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Ulster stars Charles Piutau and Ruan Pienaar were among the winners at the annual Guinness PRO12 awards held on Sunday night in Dublin.

Piutau scooped the coveted Guinness PRO12 Players’ Player of the season award, an accolade previously won by Pienaar, as well as Tommy Bowe and former Ulster player Nick Williams.

The New Zealander impressed in his debut season with the Irish Province and, along with Pienaar, was also named on the Guinness PRO12 ‘Dream Team’.

Pienaar’s amazing try against Glasgow a few weeks ago was voted the ‘try of the season’ by readers of the Independent.

The South African scrumhalf was centre of attention this weekend as he played in his last competitive game for Ulster as they defeated Leinster 17-13 at Kingspan Stadium on Saturday after being with the club for seven years.

He was forced to leave the club after the IRFU refused to give Ulster leave to extend the Springbok’s contract. Pienaar is understood to be joining French Top 14 club, Montpellier.

Last night’s awards were staged in the Guinness Storehouse with players, coaches and key personnel from all 12 clubs involved in the PRO12 championship.

Meanwhile, Munster were the big winners on the night with six players named to the Guinness PRO12 Dream Team while Director of Rugby, Rassie Erasmus, was named as Coach of the Season after returning the province to the Semi-Finals of the Championship.

Leinster Rugby’s Joey Carbery was named Young Player of the season which was voted for by a 30-strong media panel from across Italy, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

The Rhino Golden Boot was won by Ospreys Rugby’s Sam Davies who finished the season with an 88% success rate from the kicking tee having made 44 of his 50 shots at goal.

Scarlets winger Steff Evans, who scored against Ospreys in Round 22, was recognised as the Guinness PRO12’s top try-scorer as he finished the regular season campaign. Evans’ 11 tries helped to propel Scarlets into the Semi-Finals for the first time since 2013.

Ken Owens was chosen as captain of the Dream Team, marking a fantastic season for the Scarlets hooker which has seen him win his 50th Cap for Wales, make his 200th appearance for the Region and earn a call-up to the British & Irish Lions tour of New Zealand this summer.

The 2015/16 Guinness PRO12 champions, Connacht Rugby, won the Specsavers Fair Play Award which was accepted by captain John Muldoon, who made his 300th appearance for the province this season. Connacht will receive £10,000 to put towards their youth development programme.

PRO12 Rugby chairman Gerald Davies presented the Guinness PRO12 Chairman’s Award to referee Nigel Owens to mark his contribution to the Championship over the course of the last 15 seasons. Owens made his 150th Championship appearance at Judgement Day V in April to add to an incredible career which saw him referee the World Cup Final in 2015.

GUINNESS PRO12 DREAM TEAM:

15 Tiernan O’Halloran (Connacht Rugby)

14 Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors)

13 Jaco Taute (Munster Rugby)

12 Rory Scannell (Munster Rugby)

11 Charles Piutau (Ulster Rugby)

10 Tyler Bleyendaal (Munster Rugby)

9 Ruan Pienaar (Ulster Rugby)

8 Jack Conan (Leinster Rugby)

7 James Davies (Scarlets)

6 Dan Leavy (Leinster Rugby)

5 Billy Holland (Munster Rugby)

4 Ben Toolis (Edinburgh Rugby)

3 John Ryan (Munster Rugby)

2 Ken Owens, Captain (Scarlets)

1 Dave Kilcoyne (Munster Rugby)