Tadhg Beirne was crowned Guinness PRO14 Players’ Player of the Season on a good night for Irish rugby at the league’s season launch and awards night in Glasgow.
Beirne’s accolade from his peers in the five-nation PRO14 was in recognition of an outstanding 2017/18 season for Scarlets which earned the former Leinster academy product an Ireland Test debut in Australia in June ahead of the back-five forward’s move to Munster.
Three of the main prizes went to champions Leinster, with Leo Cullen taking home the Guinness PRO14 Coach of the Season award and Jordan Larmour scooping the Honda Young Player of the Season award on a night when the province’s Barry Daly was recognised as the leading try scorer for last season.
The champions also saw five players voted onto the Guinness PRO14 Dream Team, with tighthead prop Andrew Porter, lock Scott Fardy, back row Jack Conan and wings James Lowe and Larmour topping the media’s poll for their respective positions.
Last season’s runners-up Scarlets also saw five players selected, including Beirne, with Glasgow Warriors earning two representatives as back row Callum Gibbins was nominated as the Dream Team captain, while scrum-half was Ulster’s John Cooney.
Glasgow is to host the PRO14 final at the 60,832- capacity Celtic Park on May 25, the same day as football’s Scottish Cup final five kilometres away at Hampden Park, which accommodates 51,866, creating a significant security concern for police.
PRO14 chief executive Martin Anayi, however, was happy with policing arrangements and pointed to a record amount of interest in the rugby showpiece, with pre-sales of 3,000 tickets in an hour yesterday morning.
“We’ve worked with the city and the police and they are pretty happy with the two events being in two separate parts of the city,” Anayi said.
“I believe the kick-off for the Cup final will be earlier in the day. It’s to be confirmed when that will be, but our kick-off will be around 5.30/6pm and there will be time in between. We’re working closely with the police and the organising committee to make sure it goes off without a hitch.”
Among the other Guinness PRO14 winners on the night in Glasgow was former Dragons back-row Ed Jackson, who received the Chairman’s Award in recognition of his recovery from a serious spinal injury and subsequent charity work.
Jackson, 29, was forced to retire from the game last year, but has recovered to the point that he has climbed Snowdon in Wales for charity. Chairman of the Guinness PRO14 Gerald Davies commended Jackson for his terrific spirit in the face of adversity.
There were two new awards last night, with Cardiff Blues Olly Robinson the first recipient of the Guinness PRO14 Tackle Machine Award for the players making at least 200 successful tackles with the highest completion percentage. Robinson clocked in with 243 tackles and a 94.6% completion rate, according to Opta. The other first-time award was for the Guinness PRO14 Ironman, which went to Giulio Bisegni of Zebre for accumulating the most minutes on the pitch across the 21 regular-season rounds. The Italian international centre totalled 1,504 minutes.
Scarlets earned the Specsavers FairPlay award, having picked up just two yellow cards across the entire 2017/18 campaign.
Guinness PRO14 2017/18 award winners
Players’ Player of the Season: Tadhg Beirne (Scarlets)
Coach of the Season: Leo Cullen (Leinster)
Honda Young Player of the Season: Jordan Larmour (Leinster)
Chairman’s Award: Ed Jackson (Dragons)
Gilbert Golden Boot Award: Fred Zeilinga (Cheetahs)
Dream Team Captain: Callum Gibbins (Glasgow Warriors)
Top Try Scorer: Barry Daly (Leinster)
Tackle Machine: Olly Robinson (Cardiff Blues)
Ironman: Giulio Bisegni (Zebre)
Specsavers FairPlay Award: Scarlets.
Guinness PRO14 Dream Team 2017/18: Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh); Jordan Larmour (Leinster), Nick Grigg (Glasgow), Hadleigh Parkes (Scarlets), James Lowe (Leinster); Rhys Patchell (Scarlets), John Cooney (Ulster); Rob Evans (Scarlets), Torsten van Jaarsveld (Cheetahs), Andrew Porter (Leinster); Scott Fardy (Leinster), Tadhg Beirne (Scarlets); A Shingler (Scarlets), Callum Gibbins (Glasgow) – Captain, Jack Conan (Leinster).