Planet Rugby rewards the brilliant and the bumbling in equal measure as we dish out the gongs in the traditional end-of-year awards!
It's rugby Oscars time when Planet Rugby rewards the brilliant and the bumbling in equal measure as we dish out the gongs in the traditional end-of-year awards ceremony!
We have quite a bit to get through, so we'll skip the nominees and jump straight to the winners shall we?
First, the serious…
Team of the year award: Tri-Nations title? Check! Completed Grand Slam? Check! The All Blacks won 13 out of 14 games in 2010, with their only blip coming in the last minutes of their Bledisloe Cup clash against Australia in Hong Kong. There really are few other contenders for this award.
Coach of the year award: Peter de Villiers was … oh, sorry – wrong category! Graham Henry was deservedly unveiled as the IRB Coach of the Year for a record fourth time, and it's no surprise he ends up on our awards list too.
Player of the year award: McCaw? Nope! Pocock? Sorry, but no! We're agreeing with the 2010 Steinleiger Award panel of judges and giving this to All Blacks and Crusaders number eight Kieran Read – described as “a rock at the back of the scrum”. We couldn't agree more!
Breakthrough act of the year: Having started last season as Leicester's third-choice number nine, Ben Youngs has enjoyed a dramatic rise to the top. He finished 2010 as England's number one scrum-half and appears to have the world at his feet.
Try of the year (Northern Hemisphere): England v Australia. Chris Ashton's wonder try against the Wallabies was that of pure adrenalin and raw speed as the former League player ran 95 metres to score one of the greatest tries ever seen at Twickenham.
Try of the year (Southern Hemisphere): Chiefs v Stormers. Super Rugby at its very best! Started by a thrilling exhibition of handling, support play and finishing, the Chiefs' defence was embarrassed as every Stormers support runner collected a basketball pass and continued the 60m surge upfield that was finished off in the corner by wing Bryan Habana.
The 'don't call me babe' award: The New Zealand women's rugby team (the Black Ferns) after clinching their fourth straight Rugby World Cup, as well as winning New Zealand Rugby's Team of the Year gong at the 2010 Steinlager Awards – seeing off big brother, the All Blacks.
Kings of Europe award: Toulouse after picking up yet another Heineken Cup title – their fourth, a tournament record.
And then the not so serious…
The shawshank redemption award: Charged with burglary, Reds playmaker Quade Cooper almost single-handedly guided his team to wins over several Super 14 heavyweight sides and nearly took his team to the semis which would have capped off a fairytale season for the Queenslanders.
'Show me the money!' award: Former All Black prop Carl Hayman, regarded as the number one tighthead prop in world rugby, negotiated a two-year deal with Toulon worth over 620,000 Euros (NZ$1.2 million) per season.
The binned out award: Ever doubted the impact of the sin-bin? Ask Wales lock Alun-Wyn Jones. His trip on England hooker Dylan Hartley at Twickenham cost him a yellow card and saw England score a decisive 17 points in his absence.
The one that got away award: John Smit's missed tackle on All Black centre Ma'a Nonu who went on to set up the match-winning try for Israel Dagg on the Bok skipper's 100th Test appearance in Soweto.
The put a sock in it award: Springbok coach Peter de Villiers on throwing his support behind accused murderer Bees Roux, after the Bulls prop was charged with beating a police officer to death.
The 'what were you thinking?!' award: Gavin Henson, for his appearance on Strictly Come Dancing… I mean, really!
The last-gasp award: A shared award and both go to Wallaby players. First, Kurtley Beale's match-winning penalty kick against South Africa to win the Tri-Nations encounter 41-39 in injury time and end Australia's losing streak on the Highveld that goes all the way back to 1963. And then, to James O'Connor for converting his own injury-time try to seal a dramatic Bledisloe Cup victory at Hong Kong Stadium and end a ten-game losing run against New Zealand.
The 'movember' award: Australia hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau. If you don't believe us, here's the evidence.
The 'Faux Pas' award: Ma'a Nonu for his repeated use of expletives during a live post-match interview following the Hurricanes match against the Chiefs that went a little something like this: “It's one of these games that makes rugby so spectacular, after they got a lead of 24-8 or something, f*** we were on our tryline and f*** everyone didn't know what was hitting us, then 50 minutes later we came out on top and scored a f***** last minute try and get this f***** bonus point.”
The talk the talk award: He must be good. Warren Gatland for earning himself a new contract until after the 2015 World Cup despite having failed to record a victory in seven Tests and only landing two – against Scotland and Italy – in thirteen encounters since last year's November series.
From hero to zero award: After a 2009 season during which the Springboks won every single trophy available to them, South Africa have suffered a horrendous slump in form. They managed just one win in the Tri-Nations while they were toppled by Scotland in November after disappointing performances against Wales and Ireland.
Bend it like Beckham award: Dan Parks' last-minute touchline penalty to win a Six Nations game 23-20 for Scotland against Ireland at Croke Park.
Love him or hate him award: It's hard to keep Saracens Director of Rugby Brendan Venter out of the headlines – and there were plenty of controversies involving him in 2010. From his run-ins with the RFU to his clash with the Leicester fans, Venter has certain provided journalists with plenty of copy and kept the powers that be busy. Having clashed with the ERC once over his post-match reaction, Venter delivered a comical interview after the defeat to Racing Metro. Three cheers for Brendan Venter, three cheers.
The 'go break a leg' award: Horrible, season-ending and desperately unfortunate; All Blacks scrum-half Piri Weepu was stretchered off the pitch with a broken and dislocated ankle in an ITM Cup clash against Taranaki, ending his Grand Slam tour. And he wasn't even meant to play.
The close but no cigar award: Saracens, after they looked to have wrestled the Guinness Premiership crown away from Leceister through Glen Jackson's fifth penalty in the dying minutes of a roller-coaster final. However from the resulting kick-off Scott Hamilton snaffled the ball and passed to Dan Hipkiss. The England centre shrugged off some weak tackling to burst through and score the winning try. Leicester celebrated another Premiership title,