Most Improved Team –
Scotland Women had gone six years without winning a meaningful fixture coming into this year’s Six Nations and were still reeling from demoralising losses home and away to Spain in a World Cup qualifying play-off the previous November.They showed plenty of promise in their opening match against Ireland before eventually missing out on a well-deserved draw to an injury-time try. They battled bravely away from home against a French team packed with full-time professionals (Jade Konkel was the only Scottish player in that category at this point) but were eventually overrun 55-0, but bounced back magnificently to secure a historic 15-14 victory over Wales in their next match.With Konkel out injured, the England match provided another painful reminder of the gap which exists between the superpowers of the women’s game and the rest, but Scotland once again showed their resilience to grab a second win of the campaign in their final match against Italy.
While two wins and a near miss was an impressive haul from the tournament in itself, the really encouraging thing for Shade Munro’s side was the vibrant style of rugby they exhibited. With Konkel, Chloe Rollie and Lisa Thomson now playing full-time in France, plus several players involved in the new ‘super league’ in England, and Sarah Law inducted as a full-time member of the Scottish Rugby BT Sport Academy, hopes are high of even more progress during the year ahead.
The Obi-Wan Kenobi Award for Services to Fashion –
Finn Russell on Saturday night
The Dick Dastardly Award for the Sneakiest Line-Out Ploy –
Alex Dunbar versus Ireland during the 6 Nations
The ‘Here’s A Reminder Of When We Used To Be Rubbish’ Award –
Scotland at Twickenham. The national team made steady progress under Vern Cotter, but this one was a throwback to the old days of record defeats. At least they made amends, sort of, by beating Italy in their next match.
. Student Team Of The Year –
Edinburgh University, coached by Claire Cruikshank, saved their best performance for when it mattered most – the BUCS Championship final at Twickenham in March. Winger Rhona Lloyd and centre Megan Gaffney both scored hat-tricks as the team from the capital crushed Northumbria 48-5, becoming the first Scottish side to win the title in 19 years. They were just as successful in the Varsity Match at Murrayfield in September, defeating St Andrews 53-5.
The Tour Match Too Far Award –
Scotland for beating Australia in Australia one week then capitulating against Fiji the next.
The Wile E Coyote Award for Bad Luck –
The scene was set for Stuart Hogg to prove any residual doubters as to his world-class credentials wrong on the Lions tour to New Zealand during the summer, until a freak face-to-elbow clash with Ireland’s Conor Murray against the Crusaders during the third match of the trip landed the Scot with a fractured cheekbone and an early trip home.
The precocious full-back’s bad luck did not end there. After a majestic performance during Scotland’s agonising defeat to New Zealand, a hip flexor injury picked up during the warm-up to the Australia game the following week led to an emotional late call-off and he missed his team’s historic 53-24 victory over the Wallabies.
He is still out with that injury, but his form in between these two frustrating set-backs has been dazzling and he can take some comfort in the knowledge that time is on his side in the quest to eclipse these set-backs during the months and years ahead.
The Lazarus of Bethany Award for Comeback of the Year –
Currie Chieftains were 0-27 down and seemed to be dead and buried after half an hour of their BT Premiership clash against Glasgow Hawks in October, but somehow battled back to snatch a sensational 29-27 victory.
The Lord Lucan Award for Disappearing Without a Trace –
One moment Keith Russell – father of Finn – was Scottish Rugby’s Director of Domestic Rugby, and the next he was gone. Staff at Murrayfield were simply informed back at the start of May that he had left the building and wouldn’t be coming back. There has been no comment from Russell or the governing body since then. Sheila Begbie, the head of women’s rugby, took over the job on a permanent basis at the end of August, but SRU chief executive Mark Dodson has fronted up the presentation of the governing body’s Agenda 3 programme – which promises to be the biggest ever overhaul of the Scottish club game. Scott Johnson, Murrayfield’s director of rugby, has also been conspicuously absent to the public eye during this period of tumult.
The ‘Let’s See How Much You Really Want to Play For Scotland’ Award –
Fresh from their heroics with the Scotland Under-20 team in Georgia, Josh Henderson and Bruce Flockhart were informed that they were going to be given the opportunity to spend a year living on the cusp of the Mediterranean. A wonderful opportunity for a couple of teenagers with the world at their feet: so long as they survive a season playing for Stade Nicois in the brutal French fourth tier Federale 2. It’s all for purely rugby reasons, of course.
The Bear Grylls Award for Survival –
Joint winners: Ayr and Currie Chieftains for their heroics in their BT Cup clash at Millbrae in November
The Inspiring Loosehead Prop of the Year Award –
Edinburgh surprise package Darryl Marfo, who came from nowhere in the summer (well, Bath actually) and ended up being capped for Scotland.
The Inspiring Tighthead Prop of the Year Award –
Edinburgh’s Simon Berghan, whose early sending-off against Glasgow created just the right amount of adversity for his team-mates to produce one of the upsets of the year.
The RIBA Interaction With The Built Environment Award –
Magnus Bradbury for scrapping with an Edinburgh city-centre pavement and inevitably coming off second best.
The Best Costume at the Edinburgh Rugby Fairytale Themed Fancy Dress Party Award –
Viliame Mata as Little Red Riding Hood
BT Premiership Try-of-the-Year –
Fraser Thomson of Melrose against Watsonians
Glasgow Warriors Try-of-the-Year –
Nick Grigg versus Leinster
Edinburgh Try-of-the-Year –
Viliame Mata versus the Southern Kings
Scotland 7s Try-of-the-Year –
Darcy Graham versus Fiji in Dubai
International Try-of-the-Year –
Huw Jones versus New Zealand
Team of the Year –
Scotland Under-20s finished fifth in the Junior World Cup in Georgia in June, a remarkable achievement for a side which was used to regularly shipping 60 points or more against the big boys of this tournament just a few years, and which had never previously finished higher than eighth.
This was expected to be a transitional season for the age-grade side after the likes of Zander Fagerson, Jamie Ritchie and Scott Cummings had outgrown the team the year before, and with a number of novices at this level within their ranks they had struggled during the Six Nations at the start of the year, losing their first four games on the bounce before salvaging some sort of respectability in their final outing against Italy.
But they grew up a lot during that campaign and after an intense period of preparation under the tutelage of John Dalziel – returned from his placement with London Scottish – they showed huge courage when losing 42-20 to tournament favourites New Zealand in their opening match, and then went on to defeat Ireland, Italy, Wales and Australia on their way to that fifth place finish.
Charlie Shiel’s try from the base of a pack-pedalling scrum sealed the all-important victory against the Wallabies –
Former Scotland and Edinburgh assistant coach Steve Scott has now taken over the reins for the age-grade side. The bar has been set high.