By Mark Stevens
Exeter Chiefs young gun Sam Simmonds was amongst the major prize winners at last night’s Aviva Premiership Awards held in London.
The talented back-row forward was crowned the Singha Premiership Rugby 7s Player of the Tournament after he helped the Chiefs to reach the final of the competition, where they narrowly lost out to Wasps at the Ricoh Arena.
The award helped cap a remarkable season for the 22-year-old, who during the course of the season has broken into Rob Baxter’s first team squad, featuring in the Premiership, European Champions Cup and Anglo-Welsh Cup.
Club-mates Olly Woodburn and Jack Maunder, who were nominated for the Player of the Year and Discovery of the Season prizes, missed out on adding further silverware. However, winger Woodburn was named in the BT Sport Team of the Season alongside Don Armand.
Elsewhere on the night,Jimmy Gopperth completed an incredible hat-trick of rugby awards as he was named Aviva Premiership Rugby Player of the Season.
The Wasps star had already won his club’s Player of the Season title before lifting the Rugby Players’ Association gong ahead of Premiership Rugby’s annual ceremony at the Lancaster London Hotel.
Gopperth played in 21 of Wasps’ 22 Aviva Premiership Rugby matches this season as they climbed to first place in the League helped by his 266 points which included nine tries.
The Aviva Premiership Rugby Player of the Season wasn’t the only award Gopperth picked up the star-studded Awards Ceremony as his sensational score against Northampton Saints in Round Four was selected as the Citizen Try of the Season.
Started deep in Wasps’ own territory by Joe Simpson, Danny Cipriani and Guy Thompson, Gopperth motored home from halfway. It prompted BT Sport commentator Nick Mullins to say: “This is a work of art…hang that in the Portrait Gallery… it was beautiful.”
And Gopperth wasn’t done there as his season haul of 221 points with the boot saw him secure a hat-trick of awards on the night as he picked up the Gilbert Golden Boot Award.
It was a season of high-scoring in Aviva Premiership Rugby, the total of 6,282 points scored having been bettered just once since 2000-01, when 6,332 were scored in 2014-15. That total ensured that there were four players who scored more than 150 points with the boot – Gopperth, Stephen Myler, Freddie Burns and Gareth Steenson.
Gopperth’s try against the Saints was one of 89 (a new League record) scored by Wasps this season, 17 of which came from the hands of Christian Wade, a tally that earned the wing the Trivento Top Try-Scorer Award. Wade equalled a 20-year League record held by Richmond’s Dominic Chapman, and moved fifth in the all-time list as he sits on 69 for his career thus far.
Wasps weren’t done with those awards on an unforgettable night as first place in Aviva Premiership Rugby and a home semi-final against Leicester Tigers on Saturday earned Dai Young the title of Ricoh Director of Rugby of the Season.
After seeing England win four out of the last five Junior World Cups it is clear that Aviva Premiership Rugby is blessed with an ever-growing crop of world-class young players.
So it meant that the battle for the Land Rover Discovery of the Season was more closely fought than ever before, with Leicester Tigers’ prop Ellis Genge emerging triumphant.
Worcester Warriors’ full-back Chris Pennell is well-known for his exploits on the pitch but it was his commitment off the field that earned him the plaudits at the ceremony as he was named Aviva Community Player of the Season.
And it wasn’t just a night to celebrate the best of the men’s game as Harriet Millar-Mills was named Women’s Premiership Players’ Player of the Year for the second season.
To round off the night master of ceremonies Craig Doyle announced the BT Sport Dream honouring 15 players from six different clubs, with Saracens the best represented with five stars named.
15. Telusa Veainu – Leicester Tigers
14. Christian Wade – Wasps
13. Elliot Daly – Wasps
12. Brad Barritt – Saracens (captain)
11. Olly Woodburn – Exeter Chiefs
10. Jimmy Gopperth – Wasps
9. Richard Wigglesworth – Saracens
1. Mako Vunipola – Saracens
2. Jamie George – Saracens
3. Kyle Sinckler – Harlequins
4. Joe Launchbury – Wasps
5. Courtney Lawes – Northampton Saints
6. Don Armand – Exeter Chiefs
7. Jackson Wray – Saracens
8. Louis Picamoles – Northampton Saints