The Offside Line’s End of Year Awards for 2018

Including the result of our public poll for favourite game of the year, which returned a surprise winner

Doddie Weir
Doddie Weir has inspired Scottish rugby at all levels throughout 2018. Image: ©Fotosport/David Gibson***

The Offside Line Readers’ Choice for Favourite Match of the Year 

PANMURE 24 DUNDEE UNI MEDICS 18

(with 29.8% of the vote)

Panmure v Dundee Uni Medics
The ‘Snow Bowl’ wins it. Image courtesy: The Courier

2nd place: Scotland Under-20s 24 England Under-20s 17 (with 23.6% of the vote)

3rd place: Scotland 25 England 13 (with 17.8% of the vote)

The judges said: “This was chosen by The Offside Line’s readers and received an overwhelming response. Congratulations to Panmure and Dundee Medics for mobilising their membership to vote for a game which was played a week after Scotland’s historic Calcutta Cup victory amongst players of a very different pedigree, who faced down atrocious weather conditions to produce a riveting fixture which demonstrated so many of the fundamental values which continue to underpin the sport. A worthy winner.

“This match was nominated by Stevie Scott who covered the match for The Courier.”

Scotland Under-20s dogged victory over England against the odds comes second, while that game – the Calcutta Cup – which was widely expected to walk this competition, could only manage third.

“Other honourable mentions go to the Scotland Women’s team’s victory in Ireland during the Six Nations, which came fourth with 7.27% of the vote; and the Scotland Under-18s victory over England at the Six Nations Festival in Wales at the end of March, which came fifth with 6.46% of the vote.”

Click here for the full list of nominations.


Team of the Year 

MELROSE

The judges said: “The Borderers swept to a domestic league and cup double in 2017-18, and although they did not fall immediately into their groove at the start of the 2018-19 season – having lost five players to the professional ranks and experienced tight-head Nick Beavon to retirement, whilst also suffering a mini injury crisis – they did manage to hang onto early pace-setters Ayr’s coat-tails and briefly recaptured top-spot in the Premiership table earlier this month. A comprehensive victory by Ayr at The Greenyards in the last game before the festive break has put Peter Murchie’s men back in the driving seat in this Premiership campaign, but over the 12-month period there is no doubting the achievements of Rob Chrystie’s side.”

The Melrose team celebrate
The Melrose team celebrate winning the BT Premiership Grand Final at the Greenyards. Image: © Craig Watson – www.craigwatson.co.uk

The Frank Spencer Award for Calamity –

JAMIE FARNDALE

There were 20 seconds left on the clock during the Scotland Sevens team’s pool match against Fiji in the Dubai leg of the World Rugby HSBC Sevens Series at the end of November, and the boys in blue were trailing 21-19, when winger Farndale did exceptionally well to step inside two defenders  on the right. All he needed to do was ground the ball to put his team ahead, but he inexplicably attempted to sneak past a last Fijian defender to score under the posts – and ended up being shoved over the dead-ball line before registering the score. Scotland lost the match, meaning they qualified for the knock-out stage in second place in their pool and ended up with a far trickier quarter-final draw against New Zealand (which they lost 21-7) as opposed to facing the USA (although Fiji did lose that one as well).

Jamie Farndale


The Frank Bruno Award for Taking it on the Chin –

JAMIE FARNDALE

The judges said: “Jamie almost certainly wanted the ground to open up and swallow him whole, but he showed his resilience in the way he responded to that set-back. Battling on to make amends by scoring Scotland’s first try in a 14-14 draw in their final pool match against France, which was enough to see them through to the quarter -finals – albeit with a trickier draw – and then publicly acknowledging his mistake.”


The Scottish Rugby Press Award for Services to Light Entertainment –

RICHARD COCKERILL

The judges said: “There is never a dull press conference when Cockers is around. An excellent blend of honesty, humour, good old-fashioned mischief-making and vivid facial expressions makes the Englishman a joy to report on.”

Richard Cockerill
“All I keep hearing is how tough they are this year – they’ve been to Fight Club in pre-season and they’re all now really hard. We’ll see.” Image: Fotosport/David Gibson.

Scotland Men Try of the Year 

SEAN MAITLAND

(versus England in the Six Nations)

The judges said: “The inevitable winner. A moment of sheer beauty. From ‘that pass’ from Finn Russell, to Huw Jones’ acceleration, to Tommy Seymour and Stuart Hogg piling into the ruck to win quick ball, to John Barclay’s foresight and rugby nous to change direction by 90 degrees to keep the mover alive, to Stuart McInally’s penetrative intrusion, to that second audacious pass from Russell, to Maitland’s finish. Sheer class.”


Scotland Women Try of the Year 

CHLOE ROLLIE

(versus Ireland in the Six Nations)

The judges said: “The foresight to read the pass for the interception, the speed, the step, the guts to make it there in the end while the quicksand closed in around her legs – in any other year this would have been a worthy winner.”


Edinburgh Try of the Year

BLAIR KINGHORN

(versus Newcastle Falcons in 2018-19 Champions Cup)

The judges said: “Viliame Mata’s score against the Southern Kings back in January was a worthy contender, as was Stuart McInally’s against Glasgow Warriors at the weekend, but this one edges it because it says so much about how this team has developed. With less than nine minutes left on the clock in their first/home leg of a crucial European double-header, Edinburgh were in a comfortable position to win against an understrength Newcastle Falcons side, but another try would give them the bonus point which would really put them in the driving seat in their Champions Cup pool. Blair Kinghorn collected a clearance kick and launched an attack which featured excellent contributions from Darcy Graham, Mata and Jaco van der Walt, before the full-back arrived back on the scene to finish the move off. This is now a team which will go out and get what it needs.”


Glasgow Warriors Try of the Year 

TOMMY SEYMOUR

(versus Exeter Chiefs in 2017-18 Champions Cup)

The judges said: ‘Quite simply, Glasgow Warriors at their best.”


Premiership Try of the Year 

STEVEN LONGWELL

( for Ayr versus Watsonians)

The judges said: “Everyone loves to see one of the big boys get their hands on the ball in open field and make the most of the opportunity. It is life affirming.”


Scotland Sevens Try of the Year 

JAMIE FARNDALE

(versus Kenya at the Sevens World Cup in San Francisco)

The judges said: “Context is key. This was a real team effort which finished off a remarkable fightback from the Scots from a seemingly unsaveable 0-26 half-time deficit. With the game in injury time, they won back possession at the restart and showed great composure to engineer an overlap on the left, which Farndale needed no second invitation to finish off.

“Besides, it’s only fair that we highlight this great moment for the player given that we focussed earlier on one of his errors.”


Scotland Under-20s Try of the Year 

Callum McLelland

(versus Argentina at the Junior World Championship)

The judges said: “There was a couple of great team efforts from these lads over the course of the year, but this one was a flash of individual brilliance.”


Most Deserved Recognition of the Year 

JAMIE ARMSTRONG

The judges said: “Jamie picked up the “Spirit of Rugby” award at the World Rugby Awards gala dinner in Monaco at the end of November in recognition of  setting up Trust Rugby International (Tri), an organisation that facilitates mixed-ability (“unified”) rugby “Clans” incorporating roughly equal numbers of regular players and those with learning difficulties.

 

Jamie Armstrong
Image: Eamonn McCormack – World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images

Exciting Prospect 

Jamie Dobie

The judges said: ‘The Merchiston Castle scrum-half – from Inverness – represented Scotland Under-18s in all three of the team’s victories at the Six Nations Rugby Festival in Wales back in April, having graduated through the national Under-16s set-up. He was also key man in Merchiston’s Scottish Schools Under-18s Cup victory with a man-of-the-match performance in the final against St Aloysius’ at Murrayfield at the start of December. He is being courted by a number of English Premiership clubs but the prospect of being able to combine his rugby with further study after leaving school could be key to keeping him in the Scottish set-up. Don’t be surprised to see him involved in the Scotland Under-20s squad at this coming summer’s Junior World Championship in Argentina.”

Jamie Dobie
Jamie Dobie in action for Merchiston Castle against St Aloysius’ College in the U18 Scottish Schools Cup Final. Image: Fotosport/David Gibson

Tweet of the Year 

GRAHAM LOVE

The judges said: “Graham’s light-hearted tweet of Greig Laidlaw as the harassed parent holding onto a kids’ harness with Adam Hastings and Finn Russell as toddlers at the other end was both humorous and captured the thoughts of the rugby nation as they looked ahead to the dynamic duo teaming up at stand-off and inside-centre for Scotland’s Autumn Test clash against Argentina. It is just a shame that, in difficult conditions, the plot did not quite go to plan.”

 


The Ryan Wilson Award for being Ryan Wilson 

RYAN WILSON

(for tunnel-gate)

The judges said: “There was only ever going to be one winner! If Scotland were going to win the Calcutta Cup back in February then they had to get under the visitors’ skin, and Wilson got going with that early on when he decided to have a quiet word in the ear of England stand-off George Ford as the two teams made their way up the tunnel after the warm-up. Owen Farrell, another player who will never be described as a shrinking violet, spotted it and got involved, igniting a spot of pre-match handbags. Job done.”


The Lazarus of Bethany Award for Comeback of the Year – 

KEITH RUSSELL

The judges said: “This time last year, Russell picked up ‘The Lord Lucan Award for Disappearing Without a Trace’ after being dismissed from his role as Scottish Rugby’s Director of Domestic Rugby. Nobody outside a tight group of insiders was really sure what had happened and why.

“We got our answer at the start of June, when Russell won his unfair dismissal case against the Union, with Judge Joseph D’Inverno scathing in his assessment of the conduct of SRU Chief Executive Mark Dodson and his General Counsel Robert Howat. Russell then gave an explosive interview to The Offside Line and The Sunday Times in which he painted a shocking picture of a toxic culture within the higher echelons of the SRU organisation. The reverberations from this unsavoury episode continue to haunt the SRU’s hierarchy.”

Runners-up: Scotland Sevens team who recovered from 0-26 down against Kenya at the World Cup in San Francisco in July to secure a brilliant 31-26 victory … and Gary Graham.

Keith Russell
Image: © Craig Watson – www.craigwatson.co.uk

The Lord Lucan Award for Disappearing Without a Trace 

SCOTT JOHNSON

The judges said: “The Director of Rugby has been keeping a low profile for some time, but his complete absence from public discourse during a year when such fundamental changes to the shape of the game in this country was being pushed through with the SRU’s controversial Agenda 3/Super 6 programme really was quite remarkable.

“And, of course, we now have the news that he is departing Scotland to take on a similar job in his native Australia. We are assured that Johnson has done a lot of good work for Scottish rugby behind the scenes, with his sourcing of top playing and coaching talent, and the development of an academy set-up which has proven capable of producing young players capable of stepping straight into the professional game, being his great legacy to the game in the country. It is just a shame that neither he nor his employers ever felt any obligation as a national sporting governing body to give the wider rugby public any sort of regular appraisal of his work or explanations of some of the more controversial policies, such as Super 6 and the link-up with third-tier French club Stade Niçois.

“Will we get to hear anything from Johnson before he departs this country at the end of the Six Nations? It would be a big surprise!”

Runners up: Colin Grassie, Darryl Marfo and Murrayfield Wanderers Women

Scott Johnson
Scott Johnson will take over as Australia’s new Director of Rugby early in the New Year. Image: ©Fotosport/David Gibson

PR Disaster of the Year Award 

The Doddie Weir Cup

The judges said: “A keenly contested category, with the SRU dominating the nominations. There was, of course, Russell-gate, plus the eviction of Murrayfield Wanderers from the national stadium campus and the handling of Super 6/Agenda 3. But the winner has to be the decision to cash in on the great man’s name to sell tickets and allay concerns about the impact on player welfare of adding an extra Scotland fixture to the schedule outside the international window, without expecting to make a direct contribution to Weir’s charity.

Even when a storm of indignation amongst the rugby community broke, there seemed to be a failure within the Murrayfield corridors of power to recognise just how bad this looked. Eventually, after a weekend of widespread opprobrium from almost every angle, the SRU (and WRU) relented, by committing to a ‘six-figure sum’ donation to the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation charity following the match. There is yet to be an announcement on exactly how much the SRU’s contribution has been.


The Geena Davis Award for the Longest Kiss Goodnight 

DAN McFARLAND

The judges said: “We were told on 30th April that McFarland would be leaving his role as Scotland national team forwards coach to take on the head coach role at Ulster after serving a nine month notice period. We were told at the same time that Carl Hogg had been added to the national team coaching set-up on an interim basis, and would share forwards-coaching duties with McFarland on the summer tour to Canada, USA and Argentina.

“It was then announced on 18th June – while Scotland were still on tour – that former Cardiff Blues supremo Danny Wilson had been tempted away from a role he had agreed with Wasps to take over responsibility for Scotland’s forwards, meaning the national team had three forwards coaches at that point.

“Hogg stepped down from senior national team duty at the end of that tour (later becoming head coach of Scotland Under-2os), while McFarland continued to kick his heels until 19th August when the SRU and Ulster (IRFU) finally managed to agree a deal which allowed him to join up with his new club, 12 days before the start of the 2018-19 season.”

Dan McFarland
Image: ©Fotosport/David Gibson

Personality of the Year 

DODDIE WEIR

The judges said: “The former Melrose, Border Reivers, Newcastle Falcons, Scotland and Lions second-row announced the devastating news that he had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) during the summer of 2017 and promised then to devote his time towards assisting research and raising awareness and funds to help support fellow sufferers. The drive and dedication he has shown in doing that has been jaw-dropping.

“Throughout 2018, the 48-year-old has worked relentlessly for the cause, promoting and taking part in charity events across Britain, as well as publishing his own biography. His charity, the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, has raised more than £1 million. He has done it all with his trademark good humour and not a hint of self-pity.

“In November, Doddie picked up ‘The Award for Character’ at the World Rugby Awards in Monaco, as well as the ‘Edinburgh Award 2018’ and an honorary degree from Glasgow Caledonian University; and it was announced earlier this month that he has been awarded an OBE in the New Year Honours List ‘for services to rugby, to MND research and to the community in the Scottish Borders’.”

Doddie Weir
Image: © Craig Watson – www.craigwatson.co.uk

That was the month that was: December 2018

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