Ulster Rugby had to be content with a share of the Specsavers Fair Play award on Sunday night at the RaboDirect PRO12 award ceremonies as the major awards went elsewhere.
The awards ceremony in the Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh and followed by a gala dinner in the Caledonia Hotel, saw the cream of this season’s player gather to celebrate what was a successful season for the clubs in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy.
That was reflected in the major awards.
Dan Biggar (Ospreys) won the ‘Players’ Player of the Year’ Award and Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors) the ‘Young Player of the Year’ Award.
Biggar had already been named in the PRO12 Dream Team for the season last week and scooped the ‘Players’ Player of the Year’ award for his outstanding contribution to the Welsh region this season.
Voted for by the 12 PRO12 club captains and Ambassadors, the Ospreys out half beat Glasgow Warriors’ Nikola Matawalu and Ulster’s Ruan Pienaar to the title in an incredibly tight vote.
He follows in the footsteps of Tommy Bowe (when with the Ospreys), Ruan Piennar (Ulster Rugby), Tim Visser (Edinburgh Rugby) and Nick Williams (Ulster Rugby) in picking up the prestigious award.
Young player of the year Gray, not only broke into and starting in the Glasgow side, but also into the Scottish national team.
He beat Leinster centre Noel Reid to the title and follows in the footsteps of Tim Visser (Edinburgh Rugby), Toby Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons), Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors) and Luke Marshall (Ulster Rugby) as the RaboDirect PRO12 ‘Young Player of the Year’.
Ulster and Connacht shared the Spec Savers Fair Play award and returned home on Monday with a £5,000 cheque each - money which be used in youth development.
Ulster, who won the award last year, were on course to repeat the accolade, which recognises good discipline, but Tom Court’s recent red card against Leinster allowed Connacht to level with them.
Rob Penney (Munster) won the ‘Coach of the Year’ award after steering Munster into the Play-Offs again.
His side put together a record number of wins during the campaign and finished in third place overall to secure an away tie to face Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun next Friday.
Leinster legends Leo Cullen and Brian O’Driscoll both received (in absentia) the ‘Chairman’s Award’ in recognition of their outstanding service to their province, their country, the tournament as a whole and the game of rugby union.
Connacht took over from Scarlets as winners of the ‘Rhino Collision Kings’ title after a panel of experts assessed their efficiency at the breakdown and tackling,
Munster No. 10 JJ Hanrahan scooped the Rhino Golden Boot Award with 87.30% (55 kicks out of 63) with Cardiff Blues outhalf Gareth Davies coming a close second with 86.96%.
Former Ulster player, Tommy Seymour was the recipient of the ‘try of the season’ award.